FW: Updated Australian time zone names/strings

David J N Begley d.begley at uws.edu.au
Sun Mar 25 18:11:00 UTC 2001

Earlier today, Robert Elz wrote:

>   | > This would be nice, except that EST/EST is correct.
>   | By what definition?
> Just read the acts - they define summer time.

Those same Acts say absolutely nothing that supports the use of the "E";  if
one were to remain true to the Acts, then the tz database is wrong in any
case.  The fact that the tz database uses the "E" prefix at all demonstrates
that "common use" should also play a part in determining the database's

Let's try and summarise your position (please correct me if I have

- You argue that the names used in relevant legislation are the only valid
  source for the Australian time zones, and therefore "summer time" is
  correct whilst "daylight( saving(s|)) time" is incorrect.  For this reason,
  both normal and DST abbreviations should be identical.

- You further argue that "EST" is correct because some no-longer valid
  Victorian legislation used the term "Eastern Standard Time".

- Finally, you argue that until the United States, Canada and possibly
  Mexico change "EST" to include a country-specific prefix, then "EST" should
  remain in use for Australia;  and besides which, there is no major revolt
  amongst users so it doesn't hurt to leave the abbreviations as they are.

In response, my position is this:

- Relying entirely on the legislation of the States and territories that
  observe DST (namely, ACT, NSW, VIC, SA and TAS) there is no definition
  of time involving the words "east", "eastern" or anything of similar
  meaning;  references can be found on AustLII or SCALEplus:


  Therefore, if relying entirely on the legislation then the tz database
  contains incorrect time zone names and abbreviations for the affected
  Australian time zones (probably all of them).

- The verbatim time references (and the obvious abbreviations thereof) taken
  from the legislation are not widely used (if at all), as the legislation
  is State/territory-specific whilst most references to time that include a
  time zone are of a national nature.

- Given that the tz database is already out-of-sync with the legislation
  and the legislation does not match "common use", it is only reasonable
  to adopt the names and abbreviations from "common use" for the tz database.

- The courts have scope to interpret the meanings of time zone names or
  abbreviations that are not otherwise explicitly defined in legislation,
  therefore citing a lack of explicit legislative definition is insufficient
  justification for arguing that "summer time" is correct whilst
  "daylight( saving(s|)) time" is incorrect (cf. Latimer, P., 1994,
  "Australian Business Law", 13th ed - "Interpretation of Statutes").

- In common use, the terms "daylight( saving(s|)) time" are just as
  widespread (more so in some cases) as the term "summer time";  this
  includes government use.

- "AEST" and "AEDT" are two of the many time zone abbreviations used by
  government and industry when referring to UTC+10 and UTC+11 within
  Australia;  their use is not limited to a specific group.  Examples
  have been provided for independent verification/refutation.

- Similarly, "Australian Eastern Standard Time" and "Australian Eastern
  Daylight Savings Time" are phrases in widespread use (particularly the
  first phrase).  Examples have been provided for independent

- There is no national standard nor universal usage of time zone names or
  abbreviations across Australia due to the historical reasons previously
  presented;  therefore, it should be acceptable to, after some research,
  adopt what appears to be "common use".

- The closest agency Australia has to a national measurement standards
  body is the National Standards Commission, which has indicated support
  for the use of "AEST" and "AEDT".  Whilst Robert argues that it currently
  has no legislative power to decide or advise on such matters, it must be
  remembered that the use of EST/EST has no basis in current legislation

- The world will not end without changing the time zone abbreviations;
  however, it will not end if they *are* changed.  Given that some groups are
  starting to rely on the tz database as authoritative (wrong though that may
  be), it is only reasonable to reconsider whether or not EST/EST is still
  valid for Australian eastern time zones.

- Changing zone names or abbreviations for any other country should not be
  a prerequisite for reconsidering Australian zone names or abbreviations.

So, what happens now?  It seems clear that Robert and I cannot agree and at
last count it was at least two in favour of changing EST/EST to AEST/AEDT and
definitely two against.

Not that any further "common use" examples should really be necessary, but:

- The other day in "The Daily Telegraph" (print media, newspaper) the stages
  for Mir's descent were noted at times clearly marked, "AEST".

- On Sunday during a motorcar television broadcast, a Channel Ten announcer
  mentioned the time of a future broadcast being at "Australian Eastern
  Standard Time" (spoken in full).

- Given that EST/EST for use in all Australian jurisdictions was based on
  Victorian legislation (the Victorian Government cannot legislate outside
  the State of Victoria), an exact string match of the VIC Government's Web
  sites for the following strings turns up:

  "Australian Eastern Summer Time"
  - 5 hits, all at the Melbourne Planetarium

  "Eastern Summer Time"
  - the same 5 hits as with "Australian" included

  "Australian Eastern Daylight"
  - 11 hits, all at the Melbourne Planetarium
    - 4 hits using "Australian Eastern Daylight Time"
    - 7 hits using "Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time"

  "Eastern Daylight"
  - 14 hits
    - the same 11 hits as with "Australian" included
    - 1 hit from the Planetarium that has both "Australian Eastern Summer
      Time" and "Aust. Eastern Daylight Savings Time" on the same page
    - 2 hits on Victoria Government Gazettes, referring to "Eastern
      Daylight Savings Time"

  - 59 hits (only the first results page of which was checked)
    - many hits from the Melbourne Planetarium again
    - one hit defining "AEST:  Australian Eastern Standard Time"
    - one hit defining "AEST UTC + 10"

  - in all fairness, zero hits within the Victorian Government Web sites
    (see previous references for its use elsewhere)

Robert asserts that the use of "Australian Eastern Standard Time" in the
Commonwealth Corporations Act refers to "standard time" and that it
"unambiguously [specifies] a particular time (and date)";  this is incorrect,
as the Corporations Act is a *Commonwealth* (not State) Act and there is no
Commonwealth definition of "standard time", thereby leaving this an ambiguous
reference to each State/territory's own definition of "standard time".

Clearly, for a national law, this is sheer lunacy (given that Australia
spreads over at least three time zones, leading to multiple interpretations of
"standard time");  anyone can reasonably determine that the legislators
intended UTC+10 and that is precisely what the High Court would find under
their powers for interpretation of legislation (which go beyond what is
explicitly "defined" in the Acts).

> Absolutely nothing (other than the fact that some people use it,
> and are incorrect in doing so)... It is quite clearly summer time, not
> daylight time

Only according to your own admitted assumptions, not in any authoritative
sense.  If it is acceptable to pervert the definitions in the legislation to
become EST/EST, then it is equally acceptable to follow common practice and
update these abbreviations to AEST/AEDT.



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