The South Australian government is considering shifting the state’s time to either the Eastern or Western Standard Time zone.
Premier Jay Weatherill explained that the state favours a shift to Eastern Standard Time, as two reports outlining the costs and benefits predict the change could generate $2.5 billion for South Australia’s economy.
According to the state government, sitting in a time zone half an hour behind the eastern seaboard, with the majority of Australia’s business activity located in the east, has disadvantaged South Australia. Moving clocks half an hour forward, however, could have a huge detrimental impact on some South Australians.
Residents of Ceduna, in the north-west corner of Eyre Peninsula, start their activities in complete darkness and end their day while the sun is still up.
“People here in Ceduna have always complained about daylight savings for the fact that it is still dark when kids wake up to get to school,” says Kathy Kouvaris.
“It’s more difficult, sometimes even dangerous, for the families out on farms.”
Local residents are worried about their children having to walk to school in the dark, as well as school bus drivers reporting several animal sightings whilst driving.
“It’s hard for people to remain productive, as the working hours are not following their biological clock,” says Kouvaris.
“What you hear about adults and students falling asleep at their desks is. People doze off behind the wheel, they’re exhausted.
“Our working conditions would be directly affected by the time zone change.”
Dr Siobhan Banks, a senior researcher for the University of South Australia, is in favour of the move. “While there would be challenges, residents’ body clocks are expected to adjust to the changes, as they do with daylight savings or jet lag,” she says.
“It wouldn’t necessarily affect sleep patterns in the sense that people would go to bed and have to get up at the same time, but what would happen is the environment around them would change.”
Meanwhile, economics professor Matthew Gibson, whose research has examined wage and productivity differences across the four US time zones, says the path of the sun across the expanse of a large time zone “has severe implications” for residents’ body clocks.
“Researchers call this ‘entrainment’, by which they mean the time a worker goes to sleep responds more strongly to solar cues than to social cues,” he said.