• WORDS Sally Davies - Senior Associate

The Hands (and Laws) of Time

Much of our lives is underpinned by the operation of legislation and regulations; often without us realising it. Take daylight saving, for instance. We all appreciate its presence through Summer because it means we can maximise our time outside but have you ever thought to question what dictates its existence?

Well, let me introduce you to the Standard Time Act 1987 (NSW). This little-known Act operates purely to prescribe exactly how “time” (which incorporates Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time) operates in NSW.

Under this Act, Standard Time in NSW is defined as “10 hours in advance of Coordinated Universal Time”, which is a period determined by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures and maintained under a separate Commonwealth Act: the National Measurement Act 1960.

In 2005, all Australian states adopted the International Bureau of Weights and Measures’ “Coordinated Universal Time” (UTC) as the benchmark of all standard Australian times. UTC is often referred to as Greenwich Mean Time (named after the place in England treated as the “zero” point) however there is, technically, a difference in the way the two are calculated. For our purposes, the end result is the same, and results in the time in NSW (which operates under Eastern Standard Time) being calculated as UTC plus 10 hours. As with most Acts though, there are exceptions. Due to its far-west location, Broken Hill operates under “Central Time” which is 30 minutes behind NSW time, and due to its far easterly location, Lord Howe Island operates 30 minutes ahead of the NSW time.

Under the Standard Time Act, Daylight Saving Time is one hour in advance of the standard time (i.e. UTC plus 11 hours). This above exception means that neither Broken Hill or Lord Howe Island follow the Daylight Saving period under the Act.

The Daylight Saving Time Period (referred to as the “Summer Time Period”) is then defined as “a period starting at 2 am on the first Sunday in October in each year and ending at 2 am on the first Sunday in the following April”. This definition changed in 2007, as previously the Daylight Saving Time period varied each year, starting on the last weekend in October and ending anywhere from early March to early April. This change also means that the Daylight Saving period is the same in NSW, South Australia, ACT, Victoria, and Tasmania. Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not recognise Daylight Saving Time at all.

If you’re still confused, just know that come 2am 6 October 2019, you’ll need to adjust the clocks forward an hour (and also be thankful that these days most technology does it for us!)

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