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Wednesday, 18 July 1906

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) .- I am surprised that honorable members should object to the absence of any individual member. It seems to me that that is a matter for his constituents rather than for us. Many men may be transacting the business of the country, eventhough they may not be present in Parliament. I have always thought that it was a mistake on the part of the Federal Convention to require that the attendance of honorable members should be recorded like that of schoolboys. The mere act of walking in and out of the Chamber does not constitute attention to parliamentary duties.

Mr Lonsdale - Many honorable members walk in and out of the Chamber, and nothing more is seen of them.

Mr CONROY - I do not wonder at that. I have done the same thing myself, and I shall do it again. The factthat that course of conduct is pursued is largely due to our sitting days being too numerous to permit of our giving proper attention to our work, and making ourselves thoroughly acquainted with the measures which we are called upon to consider. An honorable member's attention to his public duties should be judged by his public acts, and notby the mere record of his attendances in this Chamber. Certain honorable members who have the best records in the matter of attendance have clone so little actual legislative work that when they make a proposal we merely smile. I remember that last week I characterized one honorable member as the most stupid man in this Chamber. Another honorable member interjected, and upon looking at him I had to acknowledge that perhaps I was mistaken.My regard for the truth compelled me to withdraw my remark.They are both remarkable for their attendance. We are going much too far in placing any value upon the mere attendance ofan honorable member. Ofcourse. Ministers ought to be in their places, but I do not think that in our hearts we regard regular attendance in this House as any guide as to the mental effort which one is making in the discharge of his legislative duties. Of course, if the honorable member for Hindmarsh admits that he has called attention to this matter merely for political 'purposes, there is nothing more to be said. I wasvery thankful to-day that, even after the outburst of two or three honorable members, when they found that their object was sufficiently attained they did not call for a division on the motion for leave of absence.

Mr Carpenter - They were more generous than the honorable member's party was in the Senate towards Senator McGregor.

Mr CONROY - I must say that it shows the nature of some persons when they would do such a thing. I regard a motion of this kind as being purely of a formal character. No good purpose would be attained by altering the standing order in the manner suggested. Indeed, if I had my way, so far from having a standing order regarding attendances, I would not allow them to be recorded, especially after what I have seen take place in this Chamber when important matters have been considered in the absence of a quorum.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - If all honorable members were like the right honorable mem.ber for East Sydney, there would never be a quorum.

Mr CONROY - In that case, this Parliament would be doing no harm, and we should arrive at a happy negative state of affairs that we do not seem able to attain now!. The honorable member for Capricornia is one of those who sit so frequently in the Chamber that we cannot very well complain of his protest. But when there are so many of us who offend, and who feel it to be necessary at times to leave the chamber for purposes of relaxation, we ought not to complain. Indeed, some of the best work I have ever done has been when I have been out of the Chamber looking up matters in connexion with work that had to be done here. I could not have dived so much into history if I had not taken advantage of opportunities to lea-ve the Chamber for the purpose of looking up authorities. . It would be a most dangerous thing if a motion for leave of absence were not at any time allowed to be taken as formal.

Mr Fisher - Except in a case where a member leaves the country and shows that he is taking no interest in the proceedings of Parliament.

Mr CONROY - Of course in such a case the circumstances would be entirely different. I trust that the greatest warmth of political feeling will never allow us to descend to such a level as to refuse formal leave when it is asked for.

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