Monday, March 09, 2009

Daylight Losing: An interview with DS4SEQ leader Jason Furze

In one of the more amusing takes on the Queensland election so far, Nomesque Life not only took on the shenanigans in Beaudesert (warning: Warwick Capper photo is unlikely to be SFW, or anywhere else for that matter) but also has a sly dig at the Daylight Savings for South-East Queensland party or DS4SEQ as the one-issue party prefers to be known. Naomi at Nomesque gave us the low-down on her citizen journalism as she interviewed the party on a Twitter stream conversation with @ds4seq. Naomi calls herself a bitch for being slightly cynical, but she does make a very good point: “While I know that single-interest parties are far from rare,” she asks, “surely you’d have to be ridiculously single-minded to vote in someone knowing only one of their policies and beliefs?”

Food for thought and it gave me the inspiration to talk to DS4SEQ party leader Jason Furze today. Furze told me he has long supported this cause. Born and bred in Brisbane, he has fond memories of the time when putting the clock back was Queensland law. “I was around 18 at the time and all my friends and family loved daylight saving”. But in 1992 Queensland voters overturned the three-year experiment with a 55:45 state-wide majority against daylight saving. The matter has never been tested at the ballot box since.

Furze quickly realised there was not an even split across the state. The South East with its geographical position and cultural closeness to NSW was most in favour of changing the time. And over the course of the next 17 years an additional million people of Furze’s generation have gotten on the electoral role (mostly in South East Queensland) that have never had to option to decide on the matter. Furze said the clincher for him was the 2007 Nielsen poll that showed deep divisions within the state. It showed 69 per cent of South-East Queenslanders wanted daylight saving but 64 per cent of regional Queenslanders did not. From that time on, it was clear to Furze that dual time zones were the way forward for the state.

Furze believes that the boundaries of the time zones can be mostly contained to sparsely populated areas. He said the daylight saving time zone would go as far north as Hervey Bay and Fraser Island and as far west as Goondiwindi. Roughly one quarter of the state and about three quarters of the population, would be included in the plan. There would be a few dodgy boundaries. “The Darling Downs would be mostly covered” he said. But when I questioned the fate of people on the wrong side of dual-time zone boundary, he reminded me of the everyday situation now affecting people in the Gold Coast-Tweed region. Yesterday the party launched their election campaign with a stunt on Boundary Street where it is 8 o’clock on one side of the street in NSW and 7 o’clock on the other in Queensland. That might sound funny but as Furze says there are 600,000 people in the region of which 80,000 have their own timezone. The resultant confusion directly affects more than half a million people.

While the arguments in favour of daylight saving might seem blindingly obvious to those living on or near Boundary Street, it is currently of no interest to the two major political parties. Springborg’s constituency is the 25 percent of those that want to live an hour later and Bligh made it one of her first dictums of office not to challenge the status quo. Both sides might look to tradition but Queensland has had daylight saving in the past. The clocks went forward for patriotic reasons in both world wars and it also went forward in 1971/72 and 1989/90 to 1991/92.

There is also a business cost of not changing. in April 2003 the Fortitude Valley Chamber of Commerce estimated that between one quarter and one third of all workday communication time was lost to confusion with not being on the same timezone as NSW and Victoria. There are the health aspects with a likely increase in end-of-day daylight recreation time. Bligh knows all the arguments but doesn’t want to be wedged on what her handlers tell her is an emotive and no-win issue.

But Jason Furze says almost everyone wins from dual-time zones in Queensland. He says that when he talks to those who live in the far north and west and tells them he doesn’t want to change their time, they are ok with the proposal. But he mostly speaks to own constituency and makes no apology for being a single issue candidate. “Queensland has optional preferential voting”, he says “that means people can vote for whoever they like as number two or no-one at all”.

And DS4SEQ refuses to preference any other party. Furze says that means voters get to vote twice, first on daylight saving, then on everything else. Impressively DS4SEQ has found 32 candidates (“more than Family First and One Nation combined” says Furze) to contest the election despite only being in existence as a political party for three months - “we would have someone in all 89 seats if the election had gone to September”. But as a one-issue campaigner, Furze is also realistic. Success for him on 21 March would be “convincing one or the other of the major parties to put the issue of daylight saving back to the people”. About time, too.

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