Australia’s daylight saving history

The daylight saving debate in Australia goes back more than 100 years.

Daylight saving was first agreed to for Australia in 1916 during World War 1 after a decision was reached at a Premiers’ Conference in Canberra. It was noted that Germany had shifted to daylight saving time in April 1916 to alleviate wartime coal shortages. The United Kingdom adopted daylight saving time in May 1916.

Grafton’s Daily Examiner — Monday 18th Dec 1916

Daylight saving was re-introduced across Australia in World War 2 by the War Council.

Wagga’s Daily Advertiser — Thursday 1st January 1942

The Commonwealth Government used National Security Regulations to make daylight saving compulsory during the 1942 to 1944 summer months. Western Australia didn’t observe daylight saving time during the summer of 1943–1944.

Weekly Times — Wednesday 27th May 1953

“In order to economise fuel and light, and the experience in Britain has been sufficient to indicate that it will be of value to this country” — Townsville Daily Bulletin — Tuesday 23rd December 1941.

Townsville Daily Bulletin — Tuesday 23rd December 1941

As daylight saving was about to be imposed on Western Australia during World War 2, The West Australian newspaper wrote about the negative experiences that some had experienced during the time shift in WW1. “Housewives complained because they had to postpone the children’s bedtime as the children had determinedly refused to go to bed in daylight. Another discomfort was that in many households breakfasts had to be prepared by artificial light even during the summer months. Men who usually worked for an hour or so in the garden before they went to work in the morning also complained. In some parts dairy farmers and wheat farmers complained that the daylight saving considerably interfered with their work. It was also stated that the saving in electricity did not reach anticipations. Business houses generally found that the daylight saving made little difference to their activities, but some of the evening entertainment houses found that It acted detrimentally.”

West Australian — Tuesday 30th December 1941

The sentiment from Western Australia appeared to be strongly against daylight saving.

Two years after the WW2 daylight saving period ended in Australia, Sydney’s The Sun newspaper published a Gallup Poll of 2,000 people that showed a pattern of people not in favour of the concept. “It made the day too long.”

Thursday 17th October 1946 — The Sun

“Tasmania pioneered Australia’s post-World War Two usage of daylight saving by unilaterally adopting it in the summer of 1967 for a six-month period as an emergency energy saving measure” — T.A. Newman — Parliamentary Librarian, Hobart, Tasmania.

“The Tasmanian usage of daylight saving had been noted on the mainland and had indeed been a catalyst, for example, in the establishment of a Daylight Saving Association in New South Wales, which commenced lobbying in 1968.”

In 1971, daylight saving was introduced in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland & South Australia for the first time since World War 2.

“The Queensland Government will be advised of the joint NSW-Victoria decision but the trial will go ahead irrespective of the northern state’s attitude.”

Canberra Times — Wednesday 30th June 1971

NSW held a daylight saving referendum in 1976.

“Are you in favour of daylight saving?”

1976 NSW Daylight Saving Referendum Result:

  • The number of votes recorded in favour of daylight saving was 1,879,967.
  • The number of votes recorded against daylight saving was 867,983.
  • The number of ballot-papers rejected as informal was 34,696.”

Daylight saving is now observed from the first Sunday in October until the first Sunday in April in all Australian states and territories, except Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory where daylight saving is not observed.

Following the two world wars, decisions about daylight saving time participation are made by Australian state governments. In New South Wales, the minister responsible for daylight saving time is the Attorney General Mark Speakman. “Most electronic devices automatically update to daylight saving time, but anyone with a manual clock or watch should wind it forward by one hour before going to bed on Saturday night.”

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