FW: Updated Australian time zone names/strings

Robert Elz kre at munnari.OZ.AU
Sun Mar 25 07:22:00 UTC 2001

    Date:        Sun, 25 Mar 2001 02:20:25 +1100 (EST)
    From:        David J N Begley <d.begley at uws.edu.au>
    Message-ID:  <Pine.GSO.4.33.0103242335210.8154-100000 at avarice.nepean.uws.edu.au>

  | > This would be nice, except that EST/EST is correct.
  | By what definition?

Just read the acts - they define summer time.   Daylight savings is the
reason (that's the objective) - it is mentioned in the NSW and SA acts
(not in the Vic one which is where this all started incidentally), but
in all of them, the "modified" time is called "summer time" not "daylight
savings time" - not once, not anywhere.

  | There is plenty of evidence to indicate that AEST/AEDT is
  | in common use and even the quoted (not by me) message from the National
  | Standards Commission suggests that AEST/AEDT is not only valid, but correct.

It isn't (currently anyway) their business - but there's no doubt (as
has been demonstrated many times) that there are many different abbreviations
in common use.  We have to pick one of them.  "Summer Time" is what the
acts call it, so "summer time" is what it is in the tz database.

  | "Bothered"?


  | The references to various sections of the Act plus a URL pointing
  | to the Act in its entirety didn't make the original message long enough?

You could have omitted the quotes from the act which made it seem as if
it was in support of the use of "daylight savings time", which it isn't.
Just giving the URL would have been quite sufficient.

  | If one was to be as literal as you and John would prefer, then the time zone
  | abbreviations would probably be "NSWST/NSWST" for both standard time and
  | summer time (see part 1, section 2 of the Act);

Yes, I hadn't seen the NSW act before this, and I think that would be
a reasonable label to give the timezone given that.   the same is true for
South Aus - but not for Vic.   But ...

  | the fact that *nobody* uses those abbreviations in practice

Yes, since we prefer to think of Aust (without summer time) as having
three timezones, eastern, central, and western, those three labels are
in common use.  When summer time appeared, the temptation was clearly
there to continue with that, but replacing "standard" with "summer".

  | has to call into question the whole
  | justification for using "EST/EST".

I have always assumed this was a quite deliberate choice by the (various)
parliaments - the idea of the summer time act (Vic) (and the others in the
other states) is that all times as specified anywhere would simply apply as
written with the one hour offset applied.  Since "EST" (etc) is quite common
the idea was (I assumed) to make it that "10 am EST" meant "10 am EST"
(10 o'clock local time in eastern states according to the clock, at any
time of the year) whether it was standard time or summer time.   That is,
the ambiguity was deliberate and very intentional.

  | How does this relate to the abbreviations used for "Australia/Sydney" in the
  | time zone database?  ;-)

Not a lot directly - except that it was the Vic act that inspired the use of
EST/EST (and CST/CST WST/WST except there is only one WST...) in the first
place in the tz database.   Mackin's comments came later.  The use of EST/EST
in unix timezone code predates the tz database and the current tz database
using tz code.

  | I am only guessing that this is still correct given that it also shows
  | up on a search of the Victorian Government's Web sites:

It certainly looks to be - and I can't think of any reason they would
have changed that.   Thanks for finding the URL for the Vic act though.
Note that in that one the "daylight savings" phrase doesn't occur at all.
That's what I used when I first created EST/EST (back in an early BSD
distribution when all of this was compiled into the ctime sources, with
the kernel just indicating which timezone applied ... back then there
was just one for eastern Australia).

  | Honestly, Robert, the legislation is not all that useful in determining
  | time zone names or abbreviations

The legislation specifies what the time is called, so I'm not sure
how you can just disregard it.

  | (for the purposes of the tz database anyway) - all
  | the laws do is give authority to the fact that those States will observe
  | daylight savings time during summer, that's all.

They specify that all times from date X to date Y will be summer time,
and the rest of the year will be standard time.

  | Even a search for "Eastern Standard Time" on the Victorian Government's Web
  | site (www.vic.gov.au) turns up references to "AEST" and "Australian Eastern
  | Standard Time" (and yes, other variations for standard and summer time too).

There is no question but that it is Australian Eastern Summer Time.
Just like it is Unites States Eastern Standard Time.   No-one includes
the country name (or region name since it also includes Canada, and I
think Mexico as well).   Country names are not typically included in
time zone names, for the same reason that many countries don't have time
zone names at all - historically there simply hasn't been that global
a view of time zones, only the current local time, and other time zones
in the same country have usually mattered.

  | Further, some legislation *relies* on these abbreviations and phrases;  for
  | example, the Commonwealth Corporations (Unlisted Property Trusts) Amendment
  | Act 1991 No. 200 of 1991, section 10:
  |   "'commencement' means 4.50 p.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time
  |   on 23 July"

That's interesting, as I think we have managed to demonstrate that there
is no such thing defined anywhere.

  | On the issue of whether or not the Commonwealth Government has the power to
  | legislate time zones as a measure of commerce, clearly the NSC includes time
  | as a measure of commerce and the Commonwealth has considered time zones within
  | its power (which is why it tried to legislate to that effect in 1991 - see
  | Hansard).

The commonwealth parliament has attempted to legislate on lots of stuff
for which they have no power.  Until it is either tested in the High Court
or the states actually explicitly transfer that power to the commonwealth
I doubt we will ever know.   You will note that the commonwealth only tried
to legislate - they actually gave up on the attempt (largely, I believe,
because they weren't actually certain that it was their responsibility).

Unless the states manage to mess things up so badly that the commonwealth
feels that it needs to step in and define common timezones for all of Aust
and then it gets tested in the courts, we will never really be certain.
What is clear though is that unless that happens, the NSC clearly has no
power at all to attempt to specify what the timezones should be called.

  | As for "summer time" in the State legislation, this is clearly a definition
  | for the legal purposes of interpreting the rest of the relevant Acts,

I'm not quite sure what to say to that ... the acts change the timezone for
Vic/NSW/S.Aus (and I guess there's one for Tas as well), they say what the time
is to be called (summer time, or standard time).

  | not for
  | defining common use beyond a local context (otherwise, how do you account
  | for the Corporations Act amendment that refers to "Australian Eastern
  | Standard Time"?).

Huh?   That's standard time - it was unambiguously specifying a particular
time (and date).   The "Australian" part of all of this (the regional part)
is much less clear in general than the use of standard/summer as the different
names for the timezones.  Aside from that it was Standard Time, if it had
said "daylight savings time" the argument may have been stronger, but it
didn't (given it was in the middle of Winter, it also would have been 

  | I don't have any information on (or care about) that time zone.  :-)

But you want to change the Aus abbreviations so they don't clash with it.

  | > The bug is in attempting to trun a timezone string into a numeric
  | > offset - that's simply crazy.
  | I won't disagree with you on that point (and in case you're assuming that
  | this is what I'm trying to do, you're wrong).

If you're not trying to interpret the timezone string, then why does this
matter to anything.   As long as no-one does anything with these strings
other than displaying them to users, then there really is no problem.  There
is no great user uprising complaining that they don't understand the

  | Given the evidence available that supports changing the time zone
  | abbreviations from EST/EST to AEST/AEDT,

Absolutely nothing (other than the fact that some people use it,
and are incorrect in doing so), nothing at all supports the "D".
It is quite clearly summer time, not daylight time.   Summer time
is implemented for saving daylight (for daylight savings).

The "A" part is less clear, it clearly is Australian EST, just as
it is quite clear that UTC-0500 is US (and Canadian) EST.  When we
have USEST and CEST, then AEST will be the right thing to do.  Not
until then.

  | you simply retort "it is wrong" and provide no evidence for this
  | assertion.

I didn't need to - you did already - the acts (for which you have given
the URLs) are very clear that it is summer time, not daylight time.
What else is possibly needed?


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