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Open Letter to the State Goverment
10 May 2013
Hon Jay Weatherill MP
Premier of South Australia
Level 16, State Administration Centre
200 Victoria Square
RE: Branding South Australia
I noted with interest your recent decision to ask the Economic Development Board to develop a new brand for South Australia and welcome such an initiative. I was also pleased to see the EDB’s recognition that a “brand is not a logo, a slogan or a tag line. It’s much, much more. It is a value or a set of beliefs that are held to be self evident, a truth about this place that drives how we act, behave, what we build, what our future looks like and how we want others to see us”.
To this end I wanted to suggest South Australia (again) considers ‘standardising’ our time zone and eliminating the confusing half hour. Whether that means moving forwards 30 minutes (to Australian Eastern Standard Time) or back 30 minutes to what would be the Coordinated Universal time (UTC) +8 is less important. UCL would suggest AEST. Like many organisations, we operate across states so standardisation would make business easier, coordinating identical starting times for eastern state exams, for example.
As you know, I was the State’s Deputy Agent General in London for more than four years and if there was a single issue which consistently arose, with prospective South Australian investors, it was ‘what’s with the half hour time zone’? This was inevitably followed by laughter.
This simple policy change would send a clear and unambiguous signal to the international business community that South Australia was not ‘different’ when it came to doing business.
I am sure you appreciate the long history of this unique feature of our State (particularly because I recall your father was on the last Select Committee which reported on this matter in 1995.) At the time I was being appointed as the editor of the Stock Journal, the South Australian agricultural weekly. Naturally, I would expect the farming community to complain about the idea of moving forward 30 minutes, probably none more loudly than farmers on Eyre Peninsula, such as my father, a retired farmer in Cleve. Or his neighbour the Hon Peter Dunn MLC (ret), whose son leases parts of our farming property. Peter was President of the Legislative Council during that last attempt to find some sensibility on this matter in its report of 21 November 1995.
Dad and Peter’s argument will be about the poor farm children who will have to get up in the dark to catch a school bus. Well, having caught the bus to Cleve Area School for 12 years, I think I have a better idea than most about this – and it is a minor impact. In 2012, the winter solstice (June 21) saw sunrise in Cleve at 0728, moving to AEST would see sunrise at 0758, still six minutes earlier than sun rise for all the children in London on the winter solstice this year (December 21) when the sun rises at 0804; and much earlier than for all the children in Tallinn (Estonia) where the sunrises at 0918 on 21 December this year. Of course you could move the time zone back 30 minutes and the business community would probably complain.
As you know, I am now the Chief Executive of University College London (Australia) and London, home of UTC, is a perfect example of where logical hour-wide zones do not have to conform to geography where there are strong reasons to innovate. Portugal and western Spain are much further west than London (GMT or UTC) yet lie an hour’s time east, consistent with western continental Europe where they physically reside. The western Russia time zone (which includes St Petersburg and Moscow, now +4 UTC) did not return from daylight savings in 2011 and is now an extra hour ahead of many of its former Soviet Union ‘colleagues’ in eastern Europe.
The point being, there are many anomalies for South Australians to argue with – India is on a half hour, China is larger than Australia and has one time zone – but at the end of the day it requires leadership. I think the move off the 30 minute zone would be a bold and positive public policy innovation. We move forward an hour each daylight savings period, so there is a weak argument that there will be a detrimental economic cost.
It would be a positive morale boost for South Australia at a time when the economic spirit has taken a hit. Having had a 30 minute zone since 1898, now is as good as time as any to choose a move to solar time 1350 or 1500 east of the old Greenwich Mean Time (UTC).
I would be pleased to provide you more detail and a brief paper which I have prepared in support of this idea should you wish.
cc: Raymond Spencer, Chairman EDB; Bill Muirhead, Agent General