Chapter 21 - Committees of the Whole

147  Quorum

  1. The quorum in committee of the whole shall be the same as for the Senate.

  2. If notice is taken of the absence of a quorum in committee, the chairman shall count the committee, and if after the bells have been rung for 4 minutes a quorum is not formed, or if it appears on a division (by which division no decision shall be taken to have been arrived at) that a quorum is not present, the chairman shall leave the chair and report to the Senate.

  3. If the proceedings of a committee are interrupted by lack of a quorum and consequent adjournment of the Senate, the resumption of the committee shall be an order of the day for the next day of sitting, and when the order is called on the proceedings shall be resumed at the point where they were interrupted.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 251, 267 and 269 (corresponding to paragraphs (1), (2) and (3)) but renumbered as SOs 247, 263 and 265 for the first printed edition


  • 19 August 1975, J.853 (time for ringing of the bells increased from two to three minutes)
  • [1 June 1988, J.802 802 (ringing of bells extended to 4 minutes in new Parliament House by sessional order)]

1989 revision: Old SOs 259, 275 and 277 combined into to one, structured as three paragraphs and renumbered as SO 147; 1988 sessional order incorporated increasing the time for ringing of the bells to four minutes; resumption of proceedings in committee after a count-out made an order of the day for the next day of sitting automatically, by incorporation of relevant parts of a long-standing sessional order, consistent with SO 202; language modernised and expression streamlined


See SOs 52 and 101 for an account of the basic quorum requirements and the various changes to the timing of the bells. Because a committee of the whole is a subordinate body, the absence of a quorum in committee does not immediately give rise to an early adjournment of the Senate. A second opportunity to form a quorum is provided in the Senate and the outcome determines whether the committee resumes immediately or next day at the point at which proceedings were interrupted.

As well as incorporating changes to the timing of the bells made by sessional order, the 1989 revision also brought paragraph (3) into line with longstanding practice concerning interrupted proceedings in the Senate. In its earlier form, SO 202 provided for proceedings interrupted by the adjournment of the Senate to be resumed on motion after notice. This had been modified by sessional order in practice over many decades to provide for the automatic resumption of proceedings at the point at which they were interrupted. Similarly, the predecessor to paragraph (3) provided for resumption of proceedings by motion on notice and had also been modified over many decades by sessional order, the relevant parts of which were incorporated in the 1989 revision. The principle inherent in the sessional order was also the guiding principle behind the revisions to SO 68 (interruption of business) in 1987 (see SOs 202 and 68).