[Editor: An article by “Kookaburra”, addressing some problems with daylight saving time from a farmer’s perspective. Published in The Evelyn Observer, and Bourke East Record, 9 October 1917.]
“What do you think of this new daylight-saving scheme that’s now in force, Kook? I haven’t heard you laughing so early in the morning lately.”
“It’s all very well for you to poke fun at your neighbours, Mag, but if you have read the Parliamentary news in the papers during the past few weeks you would see that laughing wasn’t fashionable just now. Even the great Peacock, who was renowned for his laugh, has discontinued the practice since the Bungaree bloke started twitting him; and things will be worse now, as their loan application is curtailed by about a million.
As to the alleged saving of daylight, the ones that found the name didn’t know much; daylight using is nearer the mark. The toffs who have an easy job are the only ones that will reap any benefit from it by allowing them an hour a day more to spend their surplus cash in.
In fact, it’s going against nature, always altering things. The politicians who are responsible for this change don’t have to go out looking for the cows at this time of the year with a hurricane lamp in the morning as the farmers’ kids have to. If the hon. members (who are highly paid) had to get up at 5 a.m., which really is 4 o’clock, they wouldn’t see any benefit in putting the clocks on an hour. The change might suit some of the Trades Hall dodgers if they could get their ideal heaven on earth that they are striving for; that is, six hours a day for five days a week. They could do their six hours right off the reel (with, of course, a couple of that knocked off for meal time) and then go to the races every day, or put in the time till six at the corner arranging new labor laws and regulations for their members. It will certainly be very inconvenient for the upper class laborites who start “work” about ten o’clock to have to get up an hour earlier, but it won’t make any difference to the other fellow, who has to hear the whistle at 7.30 after doing 7 or 8 miles by bike and another 9 or 10 by train, he has to get away in the dark anyhow; but it will suit the bowling enthusiasts all to pieces. A man has to be fairly independent to take on bowls, so they can peg away an hour earlier than usual.
Of all the silly saving schemes this takes the bun. The welfare of the country is supposed to depend on the producing class, such as farmers, etc., and as cockies always work from daylight till dark our members, in their great wisdom, thought if they could be coaxed to do an extra hour a day more the working deficit would be squared off. The Trades Hall fellows won’t work any more than their stipulated hours; if they did some factory inspector would be hunting their bosses to the police court or know the reason why.
Some time ago the clocks were put on 20 minutes for some other fad, and just now, at slacking time, as 4 o’clock lunch, when it’s really only about half past two, it seems funny to hear the boss say, ‘we’ll have to knock off boys and start milking, or that blasted milk waggon will be running away again.’
The cows don’t say anything, but they switch their tails and kick like blazes when they are bailed up in the blistering heat of the day. The wowsers say the change will allow men to work an hour more in the garden, but cockies don’t, as a rule, bother much about lawns and rockeries, although some of them try to grow a few vegetables to keep down expense.
If these fellows who pass laws about saving daylight, what don’t cost them anything, would try to make the country pay its way by cutting a few hundreds a year off the salaries of the highly-paid officials, and there is a numerous tribe of them now; if we get another drought they will be like a lot of bugs in an empty house, and will have to eat one another. I was very interested the other day reading a discussion about the Assembly on a motion to increase the screw of Alec’s secretary by about £12 a year. Twelve quid a year don’t sound much, especially as a year is such a long time, but he was only getting £674 for his year’s toil, and some of our economisers said that he was legally entitled to the increase. But perhaps he had to buy his own pen. A navvy always had to pay for his shovel when he got a job on a new railway — 6s for a 3s 6d one at that. £674 a year just cuts out at £13 a week. Not bad for one man, considering that there are plenty quarter-section farmers on which four or five persons are working that don’t have a gross income of that amount, out of which rent, wages, bran, seed, manure, repairs, taxes, etc., must be paid before living expenses are touched. If a milk waggon driver is only worth £3 a week, and he has to be out in all weathers, hot or cold, then a secretary who puts in his time in a nice, cosy office, with electric fans and fires in its season, should be content with a similar wage with perhaps a pound a week more to pay for wear and tear on the seat of his pants.
Of course, they say that if they are well paid they have to live up to it. Then let them try a change and get less pay and live down to it, and put in the extra hour growing a few vegetables and do without the Chinaman coming to the back door, and keep up the great idea of a White Australia. Some of them go to so much trouble growing buffalo grass and other sorts, you would think they expected a visit from some roaming Nebuchadnezzar any time. When the Government officials go on as boys they don’t get much screw, but there are little poddies on a farm who always eat more the older they get; but the poddy develops into a cow and, as such, is revenue producing; the other one don’t.
Thank goodness, these tiddly-winkers who authorise the altering of the clocks can’t interfere with the sun; although old Joshua was supposed to have ordered it to stand still. But he had a battle on at the time, and as it was going against him the time seemed long, as it does to a government-stroke man about 4.45 p.m. Joshua had a soft job on, as the sun always stands still, and it is this old orb of ours that does the turning round.
If our members really want to save money they can’t do better than take a lesson from Russia and stop the sale of strong drink. If they haven’t backbone enough to take that course they could save a lot of expense by prohibiting the use of starch. Starch is found to a certain extent in almost all the food we eat, but it is generally used to stiffen our shirts and collars with. And an enormous quantity must be used in that way, and if anything is uncomfortable to a man who is not used to it, it is a well-starched shirt; it feels like a modified straightjacket to him. It can’t be of much use, for if a man is called ‘starchy’ he does not regard it as a great compliment. A few Chows would have to go back to their original job, growing vegetables, and therefore would be in the back-blocks, and not with shops in the main street.
Some of the wise clergymen of Bendigo have some consideration for their flocks, and won’t open the service now till 8 o’clock, as they think the congregation should be cool and comfortable in this life whatever disabilities they may strike afterwards, so all I can say of this new scheme’s benefits is that it will wear out a few cockies a bit sooner, and so give a job to the undertaker and gravedigger.
I see that the politicians have to stand a general election, so I wish them joy when they have to speak in a farming district in tomato time.”
The Evelyn Observer, and Bourke East Record (Kangaroo Ground, Vic.), 9 October 1917, p. 3
Alec = Alexander Peacock (1861-1933), Premier of Victoria (1901-1902, 1914-1917, and 1924)
cockie = a farmer (the term was used to refer to poor bush farmers, from having land so poor that they were jokingly said to only be able to farm cockies, i.e. cockatoos, a type of bird; however, it was later used to refer to farmers in general)
government-stroke = a slow pace of working (or an easy type of work), considered to be typical for government workers
Joshua = leader of the tribes of Israel (after the death of Moses); according to Joshua 10 in the Bible, God kept the sun in the sky at the request of Joshua, so that he could annihilate his enemies
navvy = an unskilled labourer, especially one employed on major civil engineering projects; from navigations (canals), as many construction workers were employed on widespread canal-building schemes in 18th century Britain (thus, navigation workers came to be colloquially known as “navvies”)
Nebuchadnezzar = Nebuchadnezzar II (ca.634-562 BC) was King of Babylon (605-562 BC); he is mentioned in the Bible (e.g. Jeremiah 25 and Daniel 1-4)
Peacock = Alexander Peacock (1861-1933), Premier of Victoria (1901-1902, 1914-1917, and 1924)
poddy = poddy calf, a hand-fed calf; can also refer to an unbranded calf
toff = someone who is rich or upper-class, a term usually used in a somewhat derogatory manner
[Editor: Corrected “parhaps he” to “perhaps he”, “Some of of the wise” to “Some of the wise”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]