South Australia was the last state to end six o’clock closing. The new late-closing laws were introduced under the premiership of Don Dunstan. The Premier celebrated the end of early closing by raising a glass at 6.01 pm on 28 September 1967 in the front bar of the Challa Hotel.
The previous Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, had resisted calls to reform the licensing laws and maintained six o’clock closing, which had been in force since 1916. Playford held conservative views, opposed to tobacco and gambling. Although not a teetotaller, he was never seen to drink alcohol in public. His emphasis on the moral and social well-being of the population was strongly supported by the Protestant churches of the state. However, by the time Playford lost government in 1965, South Australia’s liquor laws were not being enforced, with restaurants and clubs flouting the rules and football clubs even selling liquor on Sunday mornings.
Dunstan established a Royal Commission to investigate the licensing laws and, following its report, introduced a new Licensing Act which was eventually passed by both houses of the South Australian Parliament. Among its provisions was that women would be permitted to drink in the front or public bar of hotels.
Don Dunstan was noted for his wide-ranging social reforms. He also had a strong interest in tourism and was passionate about food and wine. He was critical of the standard of Adelaide’s restaurants and embraced multi-cultural food styles. Dunstan was one of the few politicians to publish a cookbook and, in later life, opened a restaurant called “Don’s Table”.