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Motion: Don Dunstan Anniversary

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. R.B. Martin:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that 7 March 2023 marks the 70th anniversary of the election of Don Dunstan as the member for Norwood; and

2. Recognises the significant social, cultural and economic contributions made by Don Dunstan to the state of South Australia.


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise in support of this motion and thank the Hon. Reggie Martin for placing it before this place for noting. Don Dunstan recognised the importance of the unique history of our state of South Australia. Once considered a 'paradise of dissent' the South Australia that Dunstan found himself leading, however, no longer felt radical. There was atrophy, and Dunstan recognised the opportunity to restore that vital sense of difference to our state of South Australia. He positioned himself as the antithesis of the conservative, musty establishment that had led South Australia down a path of stagnation.

The list of achievements from the Dunstan decade is long. It stands in contrast to his predecessors and is looked on with admiration by those of us who have come since. Dunstan showed us what a small state can do with the drive to see change and the window of opportunity to make that change happen. He was a strong advocate for the rights of artists and cultural workers, and he introduced a number of institutions and measures to foster the arts in South Australia.

Dunstan grew up in the arts. He worked as a part-time actor, performing on ABC radio. The Dunstan years saw a sevenfold increase in arts funding. This significant, focused funding for the arts led to longstanding benefits for our state. The South Australian Film Corporation was established, the beautiful Carclew House was purchased and saved from demolition and named a performing arts centre for young people, and we know that this all continues today.

The State Theatre Company was established by Dunstan, and it is apt that the chief performance space of the company is the Dunstan Playhouse, named in recognition of Don Dunstan's work in championing the arts. Indeed, as a young South Australian at one of my first ever State Theatre Company plays that I attended, no doubt on a concession ticket for young people, I was seated behind Don Dunstan himself, and I thought, 'What a great state this is where a 20 or so year old can get a cheap ticket to the theatre and end up sitting behind a former Premier.'

Dunstan's love of food is well known. You can still find copies of his cookbook floating around. Aside from giving us some genuinely good recipes, Dunstan also pushed for the establishment of the Regency Park Catering School. The appreciation of dining culture that this institution fostered is still seen in the cafe culture that we enjoy today. Dunstan lamented the fact that 'it was well-nigh impossible to find an eating place open in Adelaide after 7pm, other than street-carts selling meat pies and pea soup'.

Dunstan saw the potential of a robust dining culture and knew that in order to achieve this, liquor licensing laws would need to adapt to allow for restaurants to be fully licensed and allowed to stay open past 6pm. The changes made following the Sangster royal commission into liquor licensing opened the doors to the Mediterranean style of outdoor dining and nightlife that we continue to enjoy today.

Dunstan fought to advance the democratic voice. His One Vote, One Value campaign to beat out the pervasive Playmander reduced malapportionment and allowed South Australians to be better represented when they voted. To Dunstan, the state was an essential means of achieving social justice. The Dunstan era was a strong example of how the democratic process can confront those with vested interests, interests which are dedicated to inhibiting progressive reform.

Today, we must still advance that same democratic voice, a voice driven not by the market, and definitely not one driven by corporate interests, but by the needs of the people. On that, while Don Dunstan was one man and that one man should rightly be celebrated, the voice and vote of one man or one woman or one person does not create change; majorities change policies and it is people power that will continue to create progressive change.

We must also take the time today to recognise the South Australians who listened, who questioned their understandings and perhaps reconsidered their positions and support of the reforms that continue to benefit us today. Indeed, he was not just a moment, he was a movement and this movement continues in our parliament. With that, the Greens commend the motion.

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