Putting a light on DST
A BUOYANT Anna Bligh yesterday gave the strongest indication yet that Queensland may join neighbouring states in winding the clocks forward each summer.
Daylight saving time (DST), which is due to start in NSW on October 28, a month earlier than usual, ushers in an annual period of confusion and inconx venience for both residents and industry in the Tweed and southern Gold Coast region.
Speaking to the media yesterday for the first time since Queensland Premier Peter Beattie announced his retirement, Ms Bligh, said resolving the time-zone stalemate would be a priority should she assume leadership control.
The comments followed Ms Bligh's landmark announcement during an inspection tour of the Gold Coast desalination plant that she would stand for the state's top job.
The current deputy leader is widely expected to be sworn in as the state's first female premier later this week after receiving unanimous support from Labor party ranks. Ms Bligh, who wore a hard hat bearing her name and current deputy title throughout yesterday's press conference, refused to be drawn on specific policy aspects of her leadership, giving a wry smile when asked whether, as a former "Gold Coast girl," she was sympathetic to the introduction of daylight saving.
And while there were no guarantees, Ms Bligh confirmed she would consider introducing DST in the Sunshine State once she had reviewed research currently under way to assess support for a referendum on the matter.
"I am well aware of the issues that people here face and as such I expect it (DST) to be one of the first items in my in-tray," she said.
"I am keen to get some statewide consensus on the issue and we will look at that again once the research is complete."
If successful, it could be introduced as early as next year it would also make this the only state in the country with a split time zone.
The introduction of a blanket time zone would end years of frustration and confusion for those straddling the two time zones in the border region of the Tweed and southern Gold Coast.
Ms Bligh's comments have been welcomed by Tweed and southern Gold Coast business leaders, who have long lobbied for standardised time zones in the region.
Tweed Economic Development Corporation chief executive officer Tom Senti said the divergent time zones had been bleeding industry on both sides of the border for years, with a recent joint survey identifying DST as one of the biggest cost drains on business both sides of the border.
He said the time difference put a significant strain on business owners each year, with many altering their trading hours in a bid to cater for cross border business.
He said the introduction of DST was the first step in promoting a more cohesive and unified cross-border economy. "I truly believe the Tweed and Gold Coast would benefit as one, single regional economy. This is something that will benefit not only business but everyone in the community, right down to those providing services," Mr Senti said.
Tweed Chamber boss Michael Tree is also supportive of the move, saying he would welcome an end to a "perennial problem".
"If the Queensland government is at last looking at addressing this issue, then more power to them. The sooner the better," he said.
Southern Gold Coast Chamber president Barry McNamara said unified time zones would also help improve the quality of life for all local residents.
A referendum on the DST issue would potentially see a split time zone introduced in south-east Queensland as early as late 2008.