Daylight saving – wrong idea for Queensland

For a state as big as Queensland, the introduction of daylight saving would a punishing imposition on regional and rural communities.


In the Sunshine State at the level of political leadership – at the Premier and Opposition Leader level – it’s a subject that transcends partisanship.

On the ground though there are few issues so fundamentally divisive, pitting country against city, north against south, and east against west.

Mayors from Brisbane and the Gold Coast are strong advocates for it.

But go to Boulia and you will get a very different opposing view as you will from most regional centres.

On talk back radio in Cairns recently the locals were overwhelmingly negative about it.

The issue they are talking about is daylight saving.

Each year when the clocks are put forward an hour down south, the Brisbane media and others who don’t like summer mornings start up their campaign to join the southern states in having daylight saving.

Out roll the old lines about Queensland ‘catching up’ with Sydney and Melbourne and the sarcastic references to curtains fading and hillbilly farmers.

Since the end of the Second World War, Queensland has trialled daylight saving – in 1971 and then again between 1989 and 1992.

A referendum held in February 1992 saw a majority (54%) say “No” to daylight saving with the negative vote understandably strongest in the north and west of the State.

If daylight saving was to be re-introduced in Queensland, it would be an unfair imposition on Queenslanders living in western and northern regions of the state.

The simple fact about daylight saving is that Queensland is too large a state and geographically in the wrong place to make daylight saving work for all.

Of the 5.2 million people who call the Sunshine State home, more than 1.5 million live outside the south east region centred on Brisbane.

Queensland covers an expanse of territory (1.85m square kilometres) the size of western Europe and in longitude time terms extends across one hour of time from east to west.

The state is big enough for both longitude and latitude to play a part in making the concept impractical.

Sub-tropical Brisbane’s coordinates are 27.4705° S, 153.0260° E.

In western Queensland Boulia appears on the map at 22.9110° S, 139.9119° E.

Each one-hour time zone on Earth covers 15 degrees of longitude.

So on any morning of the year irrespective of whether we have daylight saving or not the sun is going to rise nearly an hour earlier in Brisbane than it will in Boulia.

Because the state has a single time zone, it means far western Queensland under daylight saving would get an extra hour of darkness in the morning and an extra hour of daylight in the evening – or school days ending at the height of incredibly hot afternoons.

These days you can be anywhere in Queensland and mid-afternoon summer temperatures can be scorching – and with climate change we are only going to have more hot days.

The negative impact of daylight saving would be felt most by families and school children.

In far northern Queensland, longitude and latitude get to play together to make daylight saving impractical.

Located at 16.9203° S and 145.7710° E Cairns is midway longitudinally speaking between Brisbane and Boulia.

But at 1,882.02 kilometres south of the equator, Cairns is 1,172 kilometres closer to the northern hemisphere than is Brisbane.

So what? You might say.

Well, because the length of daylight in a day is primarily determined by the tilt of the Earth as it circles the sun, the closer you get to the equator the less variation there is between summer and winter daylight.

This means the further you get away from the equator and the closer you get to the North and South poles the longer the summer days and the longer is the twilight time.

In much of summertime Australia, it is the twilight time of day when things begin to cool and it is possible to enjoy time outdoors.

Any earlier and the heat can be stifling and that means places with shorter twilights experience the afternoon heat proportionately longer during their sunlight hours.

Daylight in Cairns varies in a narrow two-hour range between 11 hours in June and just over 13 hours in December. There’s never much twilight in Cairns.

Much further south in Brisbane the same figures are 10 hours and 24 minutes and seven minutes just short of 14 hours – a range of over 3 and a half hours – and even there the twilight is relatively abrupt when compared to Hobart or Melbourne.

And way down south at 37.8136° S in Melbourne the range between winter and summer daylight is as much as 5 hours and 15 minutes.

It follows that if you must have daylight saving, move to one of the smaller southern states.

The alternative is imposing two time zones within the same state and with that a Pandora’s Box of other issues is unleased.

Where would the line be made? North of Noosa, west of Toowoomba?

For regional and rural Queenslanders already feeling neglected by their city dominated State Government, that could be the last straw.

And for those northern Queenslanders already clamouring for local self-determination and their own state, it could be fuel to the fire for realising their ambition of a separate state.

But that’s another story.