Lobbying for Daylight Saving to be on the Political Agenda
Daylight Saving in Queensland has always been a topical issue. It is an emotive issue that brings out the passion from those who are in support and those who are against.
The Daylight Saving Referendum in 1992 was a comprehensive way to provide an answer on this issue – by asking the people directly. However, now that 18 years have passed, the landscape has changed and we live in a very different Queensland. It is therefore obvious that the Referendum result is outdated and that the issue of Daylight Saving needs to be revisited.
Since the Referendum, Daylight Saving has continued to be a hot topic (pardon the pun) throughout the summer months, particularly around the time of year that other Australian states move their clocks forward.
Business and Industry groups have been continually lobbying the Government, particularly since the turn of the millennium, encouraged by opinion polls that indicated the majority of Queensland residents to be in favour of Daylight Saving. These survey results are, of course, a definitive change from the 1992 Referendum result.
Not only has the business community applied pressure to the Government, but so too have the people. Two Parliamentary e-petitions in favour of Daylight Saving received record support from the community. The first, which had over 62,000 signatures, was tabled in Queensland Parliament in 2006, while at the same time a parallel petition against Daylight Saving, with only 7,500 signatures, was also tabled. A further Parliamentary e-petition with nearly 80,000 signatures was tabled in 2007. Unfortunately, both of the pro-Daylight Saving petitions fell on deaf ears and the Government took no action.
However, due to continual pressure, there was a glimmer of hope in late 2006, when Premier Beattie committed the Government to undertake research into Queensland community attitudes towards Daylight Saving. The Nielsen company was commissioned to carry out the research and the findings of the review were to be the foundation for any decision made on the issue, including the possibility of a trial and Referendum. That is, if this review indicated different results to that of the 1992 Referendum.
In October 2007, the Nielsen findings were handed to a newly sworn in Premier Bligh, who dashed the hopes of Daylight Saving supporters. Premier Bligh decided to remain with the status quo, with no further action be taken on the issue. This was despite the Nielsen report finding that a majority of 59% of Queenslanders to be in favour of Daylight Saving – quite a different story to the 1992 Referendum result of only 45% in support. The geographic division on the issue was once again highlighted, and it appears that it was considered too hard a task for the Government to take remedial action. One would have thought, given the findings from Nielsen, that this report should have been the catalyst for the Government to take affirmative action on the issue – but unfortunately it wasn’t.
Being born ‘n’ bred in Brisbane, and having been an advocate for Daylight Saving ever since I enjoyed the three-year trial in Queensland all those years ago, I knew in my heart that the decision made public on that day, was not the true way forward on this issue. I knew there was more to it than a simple yes or no. I had heard the discussions about two time zones and I wasn’t totally convinced of that either. Why wasn’t I convinced? Because I wasn’t informed enough to understand why a dual time zone could be a viable option. Nor did I fully understand or appreciate why those in regional and rural Queensland are so vehemently opposed to moving their clocks one hour forward in summer.
The findings from the Nielsen company revealed that there was a lack of community awareness about the views of those residing in other parts of Queensland. That is, residents in regional and rural Queensland do not fully understand or appreciate why the majority of those in the South East Queensland region are supportive of Daylight Saving and vice versa.
In addition, respondents of the Nielsen review were not provided with details of a defined dual time zone boundary, and therefore the questions asked in relation to a two time zone system, provided only a modest level of guidance. After all, how can people be expected to truly decide whether or not a dual time zone could be a workable solution, if there is uncertainty about a boundary? Presenting a defined boundary to respondents, or even two or three defined boundary options, would have resulted in a more reliable indication as to whether the community would support a dual time zone arrangement and where a suitable boundary may lie.
The pressure applied by the business community and by the people (via petitions) on the issue of Daylight Saving, had not resulted in any legislation on Daylight Saving being tabled in Queensland Parliament, let alone any political changes on Daylight Saving policy. With a growing number of frustrated people in the South East of the state, and with Government inaction after the Nielsen findings were presented, a group of ordinary people, who happily call the sunshine state home, decided enough is enough, and eventually we formed a political party!
Knowing that all of us in the founding group were political novices, we were doubtful about whether a political party was the best approach. The fact that no political pressure was being applied to, or by, either major party had been a key factor in why the issue of Daylight Saving in Queensland has been ignored for so long. This aspect was discussed amongst us at great length. We realised that to instigate change, a political party was needed, to ensure genuine political pressure on the issue of Daylight Saving was directed at both the Queensland Government and State Opposition, in order to have the issue seriously reconsidered.
And thus, the Daylight Saving for South East Queensland Party was born!
Establishing the Party was a massive task for those of us involved, with the journey taking over eight months from when the idea was conceived, to when the Party was officially registered by the Electoral Commission of Queensland.
Because the Party was registered in December 2008, we had a very limited opportunity to lobby the Queensland Government and State Opposition, before the March 2009 election. Nonetheless, we contested the election in an attempt to force the issue onto the political agenda. Unfortunately, given the limited time we had to put our campaign together, we did not make as big an impact as we would have liked. However, the level of support that we did gain, in what was our first campaign, was very encouraging. Given that the three-month old Party announced such a large contingent of 32 candidates, and had only three weeks to campaign during the state election, the results achieved by the Party suggest that the issue of Daylight Saving requires urgent attention and needs to be addressed appropriately.
Since the March 2009 election, our Party has continually lobbied the State Government and the Opposition, to revisit their respective policy stances on the issue of Daylight Saving, and to seriously consider the option of a dual time zone, which would suit the majority of Queensland’s residents. We are hopeful that our ongoing and persistent pressure may produce some results in the near future, and with a bit of luck, instigate change on the issue of Daylight Saving, to favour the majority of all Queenslanders.
Given that 18 years has passed since the one and only Queensland Referendum on Daylight Saving was held, it’s about time that the issue was revisited, and a dual time zone was considered as an appropriate solution.
Daylight Saving on the political agenda? – “It’s About Time!”