With 2am Sunday, April 3 just around the corner, we’re approaching that most magical time of the year: the moment when we, as an almost-nation, celebrate daylight saving – or, as about half of our population recognise it, the beginning of the six months when the car’s clock is correct.
And it’s typically heralded by endless op-eds and social media screeds on the topic “Daylight Saving: Why Do We Even?” Of course, in 2016 there’s no knock-down case to be made for either side – and it’s precisely that magnificent irrelevance that makes it such a hot-button issue.
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Australians are perfectly happy to shrug over boring, vital issues like asylum seekers, climate change and the effects of international trade agreements – but force our free citizenry to occasionally adjust their clocks? That, sir, will not stand.
In the great tradition of our proud federation, daylight saving is a bitterly divisive issue between our states and territories – second only to the century-plus march towards a national standardised train gauge (keep fighting the tyranny of the 1435mm standard, Mildura!).
Only NSW, the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and SA bother with biannual clock-tampering, possibly as a symbolic show of superiority lest the machines ever think of taking over.
Western Australia held a referendum on whether to have daylight saving in 2009 which, like all Australian referenda, devolved into a farcical debate of unsupported evidence, name-calling and – as is invariably the case in WA – calls for secession. It was rejected by 54 per cent of the population and settled the case to the point where it’s now only argued about twice every single year.
Queensland has largely sat above the fray in this matter, having rejected the idea of altering time in 1972 after then-premier and arthouse cinaesthete Joh Bjelke-Petersen was terrified by the time-travelling dystopian hellscape depicted in George Roy Hill’s filmic adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
His resolve had only strengthened by the mid-80s, when he pledged to continue to protect Queensland from “a future of The Terminators and Martys McFly” – a project in which, to be fair, he’s been almost entirely successful.
The Northern Territory also rejects daylight saving, but that’s because the region is a constitutional crococracy whose calendar is determined entirely by the circadian rhythms of their reptile overlords.
So, with that being said: why do we bother-slash-not-bother with daylight saving?
The arguments for are straightforward: it ensures extra sunlight at the end of the day. In fact, the notion was initially intended as a fuel-saving measure when introduced for the first time in the world in the Canadian city of Thunder Bay in 1908, presumably in response to the Great Ontario Candle Drought of 1907.
That case still stands, although it holds less weight now in Australia, where electric light is plentiful and decades of ceaseless erosion of the very notion of “leisure” means that most people are arriving at and leaving from work in soul-sapping darkness, regardless of the time of year.
The strongest argument against daylight saving is that it creates a patchwork of time differences across the nation, making it harder for interstate trade and for non-eastern states-based listeners to call into nationally syndicated radio talkback. It also disrupts farmers, who are presumably tired of having explain the seasonal effects of the Earth’s axial tilt to their livestock every six months.
Also, given that most of our electronic devices quietly adjust the time automatically, without making a big song and dance about it, this is also a constant irritant to anyone living in border towns like Eucla or Tweed Heads, whose phone is continually swapping from one time zone to another depending on which state's mobile tower is closest. Their lives are an endless rollercoaster of elation and despair, as Google and Facebook alert them about appointments missed and magically renewed.
So what’s the answer: daylight saving, or no daylight saving?
The solution is obvious: we wait for the increased heat and humidity of climate change to spread nationwide and allow the crocodiles to take over, as nature intended. Then, finally, we shall know peace.