14/05/2009 - 00:00

Rational or emotional – it’s time to vote

14/05/2009 - 00:00


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The daylight saving vote will divide the state for a fourth time this Saturday, proving people take time seriously.

FOUR atomic clocks located on Sydney's lower north shore are responsible for keeping the country on time.

The clocks are accurate, in that it would take 30,000 years for them to either gain or lose a second. The information recorded by the clocks is passed onto the speaking clock telephone service - the official time reference used by Australians for decades - now run by Melbourne-based company Informatel.

Informatel's software will be updated to reflect the results of Western Australia's referendum on daylight saving on May 16.

The company's managing director, Dennis Benjamin, said the speaking clock service had to be millisecond precise.

"People take the time extremely seriously," he said.

The daylight saving debate in Western Australia is serious enough to have warranted a fourth referendum, and attract a variety of high-profile campaigners. The 'yes' campaign, headed by former Liberal leader Matt Birney, has attracted support from Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi, West Coast Eagles skipper Darren Glass and rock band Eskimo Joe, to name a few.

The 'no' campaign largely consists of three groups - Nationals WA, the Western Australian Farmers Federation, and a group of politicians led by Labor MP Andrew Waddell.

Then there are those who don't really mind either way, such as the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia (PGA), which just wants this referendum to be the last.

Although many expect Western Australians to vote along demographic lines - a 'yes' vote for urban residents, young people and white collar workers and 'no' vote for rural residents, older people and trades people - the exceptions are plentiful.

Jodie Webster runs the well-known North Cottesloe establishment Blue Duck Café, which caters for "everyone from beach bums in bathers to beauties in ball gowns".

Ms Webster said the three-year daylight saving trial had negatively affected morning trade by cutting the number of people exercising on the beach or in the ocean, which is the Blue Duck's regular morning clientele.

"I know daylight saving is not well received by those people," Ms Webster said.

"The staff are just working later in the evening because people are arriving later, but we haven't picked up any more business. I think daylight saving has its merits but I'm not sure we need it here; we have enough sunlight as it is."

Ms Webster said she would vote against daylight saving on May 16.

Lamont's Wine Store Cottesloe is located exactly one kilometre south-east of the Blue Duck, and its owner, Kate Lamont, is part of the 'yes' campaign.

The wine store does not cater for early-morning joggers or kayakers, and instead opens its tapas-style kitchen at lunchtime.

"Personally, I support daylight saving, and from a business perspective I support it," said Ms Lamont, who is also chair of Tourism WA.

Ms Lamont said dark mornings were only really a problem for about 20 days out of 365, which was more than offset by the extra twilight time people could enjoy.

It's a view shared by the general manager of Perth International Arts Festival, Julian Donaldson, who said more and more people were enjoying outdoor experiences, and that festival attendance had risen during the daylight saving trial.

There have been some high-profile defectors, however, who have said they won't vote in line with the bulk of their constituency. The so-called 'turn coats' include WAFarmers chief executive Andy McMillan, who has expressed support for daylight saving.

The 'yes' campaign considers this a coup and a sign of disunity among its opposition, rather than simply a case of an individual who likes some extra sunlight in the evening to go for a walk with his wife.

On the flip side, the Commerce, Small Business and Trade Minister Troy Buswell, intends to vote 'no', much to the chagrin of 'yes' advocates like Labor leader Eric Ripper, who said Mr Buswell should support business.

Despite the large number of businesses that support daylight saving - a view put forward by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA - there are plenty of exceptions.

Mr Waddell articulated his opinion last week in WA Business News that the argument of reducing the time difference to the east coast failed to recognise that the state's major business partners were no longer there. He said to move clocks forward would put the state out of sync with important trading partners like Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing.

Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi told WA Business News she disagreed with this view. She said a one-hour time difference with some trading partners in Asia was manageable and that the east coast was still more important than overseas considerations.

"We've got to remember we are part of a nation," Ms Scaffidi said.

While the referendum is a vote on a single question, many 'yes' campaigners see it as interrelated with other issues, like extended trading hours, and view it as one step towards shedding the 'Dullsville' tag for the state capital.

Twenty-year-old Sean Morrison, chairman of Future Perth - a group of students, town planners, architects and other professionals who want to build a more vibrant city - said daylight saving was another potential change in a long list Western Australians had rejected.

"It's a change that would help the city. Really, it's a no-brainer. It's just another thing we've said 'no' to," Mr Morrison said.

But not everyone in WA is an advocate, financial donor, volunteer or high-profile campaigner for either campaign. There are also groups that want the issue dealt with, once and for all, regardless of the result.

"We have members who are for it and members who are against it," PGA policy director Sheldon Mumby said concerning the organisation's pastoralist membership.

"Can we get this issue over with and let's not waste any more taxpayers' money dwelling on it?"

The National Measurement Institute in Sydney keeps four atomic clocks because four is considered to be the most reliable number of clocks needed, in case something goes wrong.

WA, it seems, considers four to be a good number of referendums to work out whether it should, or should not, implement daylight saving.


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