FW: Updated Australian time zone names/strings

Olson, Arthur David (NCI) olsona at dc37a.nci.nih.gov
Thu Mar 22 14:19:19 UTC 2001

David Begley is not on the time zone mailing list; direct replies


-----Original Message-----
From: David J N Begley [mailto:d.begley at uws.edu.au]
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2001 3:40 AM
To: Time Zone Database
Subject: Updated Australian time zone names/strings

To whom it may concern...


I'd like to request the "EST/EST" time zone strings for Australian eastern
standard and summer/daylight-savings time be changed to "AEST/AEDT", given
that "EST/EST":

- clashes with an existing U.S. time zone;
- gives no indication of the difference between standard/d'light savings;
- is unnecessarily confusing;
- is incorrectly quoted from the time zone database as authoritative;  and,
- does not necessarily gel with "common practice" in Australia.

Whilst it is arguable exactly what string/abbreviation should be used in the
absence of formal standards, I present "common usage" examples below and
that at the very least, the abbreviations for standard and daylight savings
time should be *different*.


Checking the tzdata2001a archive (and various UNIX systems), Australian
eastern time zones (particularly "Australia/Sydney") use the time zone
"EST" for both standard and summer/daylight-savings time.  Notionally, this
just a visual issue that doesn't really bring the IT industry to its knees
it's wrong since most decent systems work directly on the UTC offset

However, some systems use the time zone database as an "expert reference"
which to extrapolate incorrect information - it is this that triggered my
submission to you.

For example, the time zone database includes the following comment:

  # From John Mackin (1991-03-06):
  # We in Australia have _never_ referred to DST as `daylight' time.
  # It is called `summer' time.  Now by a happy coincidence, `summer'
  # and `standard' happen to start with the same letter; hence, the
  # abbreviation does _not_ change...

I can't speak for Mr Mackin's direct experience, but I can most certainly
contest the assertion that, "We in Australia have _never_ referred to DST as
`daylight' time" - certainly everyone I know (and myself, of course) have
always used the term "daylight savings" rather than "summer time".

I've used UNIX systems for years so to a certain degree I'm used to this
"error" in the time zone database;  however, now that people are using the
database as an authoritative resource (despite the comments in the file to
contrary), I thought it only fair to request a correction (in the hope that
those relying on the database will in turn correct their information).

Mr Mackin continues:

  # The legislation does not actually define abbreviations, at least
  # in this State, but the abbreviation is just commonly taken to be the
  # initials of the phrase, and the legislation here uniformly uses
  # the phrase `summer time' and does not use the phrase `daylight
  # time'.

Unfortunately Mr Mackin does not indicate to what State he refers, but in
*this* State (New South Wales - NSW), the relevant legislation clearly uses
both terms (summer time and daylight savings) interchangeably;  for
see the Standard Time Act 1987 (NSW), which *predates* Mr Mackin's comment:

  "New South Wales Consolidated Acts - STANDARD TIME ACT 1987"

Whilst the Act clearly defines "standard time" and "summer time", it also
makes specific mention of "daylight saving":

- the long title of the legislation is:

  "An Act relating to standard time and daylight saving in New South Wales."

- part 3 of the Act, talking about summer time, is in fact entitled:


For further evidence of the use of the term "daylight saving", see:

  "Time in New South Wales"
  (NSW Attorney General's Department)

  "Daylight Saving in New South Wales"
  (NSW Department of Public Works and Services)

  "When does daylight savings start in Australia?"
  (National Standards Commission)
  http://www.nsc.gov.au/PAGES/Info/info_faq.html#Daylight Savings

  "Daylight Saving"
  (National Standards Commission)

Clearly, the assertion that Australia always uses the term "summer time"
instead of "daylight time" or "daylight savings" (and therefore, the time
abbreviations must be the same) is *incorrect*.

The confusion arises because in Australia it is the States (not the
Federal/national government) that legislate time changes during the summer
months;  whilst technically it is a federal responsibility under the
constitution (as a measure related to commerce), the parliament has never
really been able to pass legislation on the matter due to the fear that the
States would see this as removing some of their legislative powers (see
Hansard, Commonwealth House of Representatives, 1991).

Subsequently, there is no standard name for time zones or summer clock
just "common use" (for various definitions of "common") that sometimes vary
from State to State.  In the media you will experience all manner of phrases
used such as "Eastern Time", "Summer Time", "Sydney Time" and numerous other
variants;  for example, C&W Optus (a large telco) uses abbreviations such as
"AEDST" when referring to Australian eastern daylight savings time.

I suspect, apart from Mr Mackin's comments above, that the local use of the
phrase "Eastern Standard Time" (which is clearly local in context) is what
led to the use of the ambiguous "EST" in the time zone database.  More
recently, however, the media is recognising the global context (rather than
local) and starting to prefix time zone references with "Australian" (more
this below).

As noted above, this confusing lack of standards, local phrases and personal
experiences have found their way into the time zone database, into nearly
every UNIX system (well...) and has now created even more confusion,
especially as some people start to quote the time zone database as
authoritative.  For example:

  "Australian time zones and their naming variants account for fully one
  quarter of all time zones in the Postgres time zone lookup table."


(Caused by wierd variants - many of which I must admit to never having seen
use - to the ambiguous "EST".  Also note that they recognise "AEST".)

More of a concern, is this:

  "4.5. The timezone string for Sydney/Australia is wrong since even when
  daylight saving time is in effect the timezone string is EST.

  "{UD} The problem for some timezones is that the local authorities decided
  to use the term 'summer time' instead of 'daylight saving time'. In this
  case the abbreviation character `S' is the same as the standard one. So,
  Sydney we have

  Eastern Standard Time   = EST
  Eastern Summer Time     = EST

  Great! To get this bug fixed convince the authorities to change the laws
  and regulations of the country this effects. glibc behaves correctly."


This is clearly based on Mr Mackin's comment in the time zone database, and
I have demonstrated is wrong (in terms of the legislation and government
Unfortunately, despite the evidence, the glibc authors simply point to the
time zone database as authoritative and allow this error to continue.

glibc is *not* behaving correctly, nor is the time zone database (but to
correct glibc I need to get the time zone database updated).

So.. by this time I hope I've demonstrated that it *is* legitimate (and
correct) to use a different abbreviation for daylight savings/summer time;
all that remains is to demonstrate why I've chosen "AEST" and "AEDT" to
replace "EST" for standard and daylight savings time respectively.

Well, ignoring my own use of these abbreviations, some "common use"

  - Australian Broadcasting Corporation <http://www.abc.net.au/news/>
    - Browse the ABC News site and see the instances of "AEST" and "AEDT"
      (even "ACST" and "AWST" for central and western standard time) in
      reference to eastern standard or eastern summer time depending on
      whether that particular State observes daylight savings or not.
    - In particular, see the "Posted" timestamps at:
    - The home page currently has a timestamp (towards page top-right) of:
      "This Bulletin:  Thu, Mar 22 2001 4:15 PM AEDT".
    - Even at the bottom of the first news page is the explanation of "AEDT"
      (which may disappear this weekend when DST ends in NSW):
      "AEDT = Australian Eastern Daylight Time which is 11 hours ahead
      of UTC (Greenwich Mean Time)"
    - These pages also appear in a search of the Commonwealth Government's
      <http://www.fed.gov.au/> Web site.

  - Australian Department of Defence <http://www.defence.gov.au/>
    - See various media releases, for example, referring to times in
      either "AEST" or "AEDT", including:

  - National Library of Australia <http://www.nla.gov.au/>
    - Search their Web site for "AEST", references to contacting them
      give times in this time zone:

  - Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
    - http://www.ato.gov.au/content.asp?doc=/content/tax_reform/nat3402.htm

  - Australian Football League (AFL)
    - Fixture times: <http://www.afl.com.au/matches/season_111.htm>

  - Australian Cricket Board (ACB)
    - Live game coverage:

  - "The Australian" (and other Murdoch/News-owned newspapers)
    - Example:
    - You have to "view source" to see the "Updated...AEST"
    - Visible at the very bottom, "All times AEDT"

  - Other (small sample)
    - NineMSN's News service <http://www.news.ninemsn.com.au/>
      (notice current time given in AEDT)
    - "...each fortnightly Sunday morning at 8am AEST/AEDT"
    - AAP IS/News, as viewed through <http://au.dailynews.yahoo.com/>
      (pick AAP-sourced articles and notice times in "AEDT" and "AEST")

The examples go on and on.  As you can see, it is not just government sites
using the time zones "AEST" and "AEDT" in this manner.  An argument could
probably be mounted to have all the Australian time zones altered
(probably along the lines used by the ABC and The Australian), but it's
the Australia/Sydney time zone that interests me at present.

I hope this is sufficient information/examples for consideration, but would
happy to provide further info/examples if necessary.

Thanks for your consideration (and sorry for this being so long);  hope to
hear your comments soon.



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