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Thursday, 10 March 1977


Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) -The problem of forming a quorum sometimes arises in this House. However, it does not arise for the reason that was stated by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). The honourable member said that the problem arises because members are in their electorates and not in the House when the House is in session. I think that the honourable member must agree that this was not the reason why a quorum was not formed on the occasion he mentioned. On very odd occasions problems arise in respect of the forming of quorums. On the particular occasion referred to by the honourable member when a quorum was not formed, the then Opposition constantly called for quorums. At that time government supporters were busy with business affecting their constituents and the people of Australia. Each time a quorum was called they had to run into the House so that the quorum could be counted. However, when the quorums were called Opposition members did not come into the House. In fact they were encouraged not to come into the House. As a result the business of government committees was constantly disrupted. The situation arose in which members of very important government committees took the view that their colleagues would form the quorum when a quorum was called and that they could go on with the important business of the nation. The result was that a quorum was finally called for which the required number of members was not present.

I do not disagree that on many occasions there should be a better attendance of members in this House. The Whips generally- and I congratulate the honourable member for Hughes on his appointment as Whip of the Opposition- find that it is not always easy to ensure a greater number of members because of the increasing responsibilities that members have outside of the chamber in performing the duties that they have as members of Parliament. But I support the idea that there should be a greater attendance by members more often in this House. I would encourage and recommend that members make an even greater effort to be in this House in the interests of creating a better atmosphere for debates.

Nevertheless, in all fairness we have to consider the reasons why government supporters were not able to form a quorum on the occasion referred to by the honourable member for Hughes. I might say that I was not one of the members who were not counted. I am very pleased to be able to say that because it enables me to speak more effectively on behalf of those members who were not in this place. As I have pointed out, the members of a number of government committees had to leave their work on a number of occasions to be in the chamber for a quorum to be counted. However, because they wanted to complete their meetings they did not appear in the chamber to be counted on the last occasion a quorum was called.

I believe that the resolution moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) deserves the support of this Parliament. It will ensure that the House will not be adjourned if a quorum is not obtained. I believe that this is a very good move in the interests of the nation. I believe that the Speaker should have the right to decide whether a quorum is available. Excepting for the moment for the sake of argument the claim of the honourable member for Hughes that the responsibility for forming a quorum rests on the shoulders of the government of the day, there is clear evidence to suggest that a quorum could have been formed on the occasion I have mentioned. But the honourable member for Hughes and others continue to berate the Government for the fact that there was not a quorum at that time.

This resolution allows the business of the nation through the national Parliament to proceed at an earlier time than is possible under present conditions. Having made those few remarks and having put a slightly different point of view from that put by the honourable member for Hughes- I think probably a broader concept of what happened on that occasion- I support the resolution before the House.







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