46 Attendance of senators
For the purposes of section 20 of the Constitution, a record shall be kept in the Journals each day of senators who do not attend at some time during the sitting.
Adopted: 9 September 1909 as SO 42A, J.120 (to take effect 1 October 1909)
1989 revision: Old SO 44 renumbered as SO46; minor change in expression to adopt more neutral terms (“fail to attend” replaced with “do not attend”)
In 1903, Senator Ferguson (FT, QLD) became the only senator to lose his place under section 20 of the Constitution for non-attendance (Source: Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook)
When this chapter was being debated in 1903, Senator de Largie (ALP, WA) noted the absence of a provision for recording senators’ attendance but was reassured by President Baker that the Journals of the Senate did, in fact, record this information. The position was formalised in 1909 on the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee “in case any question may arise in regard to their absence for more than the prescribed period without having obtained the leave of the Senate”. A question had arisen only once, in 1903, when Senator Ferguson (FT, Qld) became the only senator in the history of the institution to forfeit his seat through non-attendance. As President Gould explained, when outlining the proposed new standing order:
There is no provision under which it is necessary to keep a record of the attendance of honourable senators, although, as a matter of fact, such a record has been kept. … It has been kept under the instructions of the President.
The record in the Journals has been kept in the same form since 1901. The 1938 MS records the practice of preparing, at the end of each session, “a statement showing the number of days for which attendance is recorded, the number of days present, the number of days absent without leave and the number of days absent on leave. This statement is printed and circulated, and is bound in the sessional volumes”. Today this information is published biannually in Business of the Senate, a digest of statistical and other information about the work of the Senate in the previous 6 or 12 months.
A record of the attendance of senators is kept in the Journals of the Senate