As other Australian states had done in the previous decade, Queensland introduced earlier closing times for pubs, but chose slightly more civilised eight o’clock closing, rather than six o’clock. Western Australia was the only state not to introduce early closing. Hotel trading hours were extended to 10pm in December 1941.
Although spared the “six o’clock swill” which became infamous in other Australian states, Queensland had its own version – the “seated swill” just before eight o’clock. It was suggested that the eight o’clock closing didn’t significantly reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, as bottle sales increased dramatically. There was also the potential for “sly grog” sales – the illegal supply of liquor out of hours – to increase.
It seems the enforcement of the new law was not as rigorous as it might have been. In the late 1930s, religious and social organisations were calling on the government to enforce the law. In 1939, a group of them, including the Queensland Temperance League, claimed to have evidence of many Brisbane pubs flouting the legal opening hours. On the other hand, drinkers in Mt Isa made their feelings known with protests against eight o’clock closing in 1940.
As late as February 1941, the Queensland Government remained adamantly opposed to the extension of trading hours. The move to ten o’clock closing was controversial. It was opposed by the Liquor Trades Union. Other opponents argued that it “would weaken industrial efficiency, and would provide grave moral temptation for the young men in the Army”and that it was a violation of democratic procedure if the change was made without a referendum.
Despite the opposition of these groups, a narrow majority of the Labor Caucus in Queensland voted in October 1941 to introduce a Bill to change pub trading hours. It was pointed out that hours were not being extended, as the previous 8am to 8pm trading window was simply being moved to 10am to 10pm. Much of the pressure to change the law came from country hotels, whose business had been badly affected by the introduction of eight o’clock closing. The Liquor Bill was passed by the Queensland Parliament in December 1941.