Publication Details

Samuelsson, L. (2018). 'Six o'clock is late enough': the 1947 New South Wales liquor referendum. History Australia, 15 (4), 744-765.


This article considers the outcome of the controversial 1947 New South Wales liquor referendum. As part of proposed reforms to liquor legislation, the New South Wales government asked the people to decide whether evening trading hours for hotel bars should be extended from six o'clock to either nine or ten o'clock. Early closing was retained with a significant majority, despite widespread recognition that early closing had created a problematic binge-drinking culture. Drawing on newspaper articles, letters to the editor, advertisements, trade journals, parliamentary records and temperance literature, this article will examine why there was such extensive public support for six o'clock closing in 1947. It will focus in particular on the role of two seemingly opposed groups-the temperance movement and the trade union movement-in the campaign to retain early closing, revealing surprisingly similar arguments used by these groups during their campaigns. The article argues that mid-century notions of restraint, moderation and respectability perpetuated public support for restrictive liquor legislation, and that temperance and trade union groups successfully capitalised on these notions in their campaign for six o'clock closing.



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