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55 years of daylight saving in Tasmania

When daylight saving ends on April 3 this year it will be 55th time Tasmanians have put their clocks forward an hour for six months of the year.

Daylight saving was introduced in Tasmania in 1967 as an emergency measure when the state’s hydro-electric water storages were so dangerously low that there was a threat of power rationing.

It was continued after the drought had broken and in 1971 the state pushed successfully for a national trial of daylight saving.

The uptake was not universal with Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia opting out.

Arguments for and against daylight saving haven't changed much over the past 50 or so years but Tasmanians have consistently shown more commitment to the concept than other states.

In fact Tasmanians first experienced daylight saving more than 100 years ago, during World War I, following favourable reports from Britain.

On July 2, 1908, The Examiner reported on the beginnings of the then innovative concept in Britain.

“A select committee of the House of Commons has reported in favour of the Daylight Saving Bill. It proposes to advance the clock an hour on the third Sunday in April, and alter it in the opposite direction an hour on the third Sunday in September.

A month later The Examiner reported that the idea had already been adopted in Australia.

"It is a matter of some interest that a Melbourne firm and its employees have taken up the question of daylight saving, about which a somewhat violent controversy is just now raging in the old country.

"By mutual arrangement this firm and its workers have made a change in their day by which during the summer work will commence and conclude at earlier hours than are now the custom."

Fears that the extra daylight would fade curtains, keep children awake at night and lead to cows giving less milk were freely aired but failed to kill the concept.

In an article published in 1941, The Examiner explained that daylight saving was the idea of Chelsea builder William Willett who developed the concept in 1907 and worked tirelessly to have it introduced.

"He had the idea that people got up an hour or more too late in the summer time and had a short evening for outdoor recreation when it might have a long one.

"At his own expense, the energetic builder ran a campaign on the point, and did it so successfully that a bill to implement the idea was introduced into the House of Commons in 1908."

The British Daylight Saving Bill became law in June 1909 but in Tasmania The Examiner's editorial writer wasn’t all that impressed.

"Notwithstanding all that has been urged in favour of the Daylight Saving Bill, we regard the proposal as nothing more than an attempt at self-deception.

"Its object is to try to make it appear, say, 8 o'clock when it is really only 7 o'clock, or, maybe, 6 o'clock. In saying this we do not close our eyes to the fact that the object sought ... is good in itself."

Debate on daylight saving in Tasmania started in earnest during World War I where the object was to save power as well as to provide more daylight time for recreation.

In August 1916 a deputation of the Launceston Retailers’ Association met Tasman Shields (MLC, Launceston), a minister without portfolio in the Nationalist Party government of Sir Walter Lee, in support of daylight saving.

The Tasmanian Daylight Saving Bill was subsequently drafted and was passed by Parliament on September 20, 1916. Ten days later it was enacted.

In Launceston the public was notified that the Post Office clock and the clock at St John's Church would be put on one hour at 11 o'clock on Saturday evening, September 30.

On November 28, 1916, The Examiner published Launceston Mayor F. P. Hart's valedictory address, which noted that the introduction of daylight saving had resulted in a decline in electricity demand from the Duck Reach Power Station.

Daylight saving was introduced nationally in 1917 but it was a short-lived experiment that wasn't attempted again until World War II.

"In accordance with the federal government's decision, daylight saving will be practised in Australia, for the second time, as from January 1, 1941," reported The Examiner.

"Thus Australia will be brought into line with various countries of Europe and America and to some extent with the neighbouring Dominion of New Zealand, which has been “saving” daylight daily from September to April during the last 12 years."

The end of World War II also saw the end of daylight saving until 1967 when Tasmania again took up the concept to conserve its hydro-electric storages. Despite some critics daylight saving has become a permanent fixture.

IMAGE from the Weekly Courier of 17 November 1932


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