12 October 2010

IP Australia Extends Business Hours for Summer

Australian geography has compelled IP Australia to extend its business hours over summer.  An Official Notice published online on 11 October 2010 announced that the hours of operation for the customer service centre are 9am to 8pm Australia Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) from the commencement of daylight savings on Tuesday, 5 October 2010 until Friday, 2 April 2011.

What has geography got to do with it?  We are glad you asked!

Due to its size, Australia presents some unusual time zone issues for a single country.  It's northernmost city, Darwin, is situated at about 12 degrees south latitude, well into the tropics and around the same distance from the equator as Barbados.  Southernmost city Hobart is at around 42 degrees south latitude, equivalent to Beijing, Rome and New York in the North, with a shortest day of almost exactly nine hours, and a longest day of just over 15 hours and 20 minutes.  Add to this the fact that the country spans nearly 40 degrees of longitude, and keeping track of the time interstate can become something of a headache.

For example, southern regions benefit from observing daylight saving, while the northern parts of the country (where the length of the day varies little throughout the year) do not want any part of it.  Out in the west, Perth is almost three hours behind the eastern seaboard measured by the Earth's rotation alone, but its standard time is only two hours behind the east, as a compromise considering the sheer size of Western Australia.  As a result, the majority of the population "out west" has no desire to advance an additional hour in summer.

For six months of the year, Australia has three time zones.  Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory observe Australian Eastern Standard Time of GMT+10.  South Australia and the Northern Territory observe Australian Central Standard Time of GMT+9:30.  Western Australia observes Australian Western Standard Time of GMT+8.

However, between October and March there are five different time zones in Australia!  The South Eastern states and the Australian Capital Territory move to daylight saving time, while Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia do not.  Depending on where you are, the time may be GMT+8 (Western Australia), GMT+9:30 (Northern Territory), GMT+10 (Queensland), GMT+10:30 (South Australia) or GMT+11 (Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory).  For this period, South Australia (in the Central zone) is actually "ahead" of Queensland (in the Eastern zone)!

As we explained in an earlier post, IP Australia, which is headquartered in the Australian Capital Territory, used to maintain dedicated sub-offices in the state capitals, including Perth.  Naturally, each sub-office operated on local time, providing services to customers within each state.  Now that the sub-offices have closed, the Customer Service Centre at the IP Australia headquarters is the main point of contact for information and assistance.  To ensure that customers across all time zones are able to obtain assistance throughout the normal office hours of 9am to 5pm, the Customer Service Centre must open at 9am, and remain available until 8pm (5pm in Perth).

This may be quite convenient for those of us working late in Melbourne and Sydney.  But Perth-based customers will need to rise at 5am to take advantage of the full three hours of extended service!


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