Australian senator caught napping still fan of press freedom

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian senator has fallen victim to the press freedom he champions when he was photographed snoozing on his first day in Parliament.

Former veteran journalist Derryn Hinch was caught napping as a senator beside him nudged his arm during Governor-General Peter Cosgrove’s 40-minute speech on Tuesday afternoon opening Australia’s 45th Parliament.

Usually the extraordinary restrictions on press photographers working in the Senate ban such candid and unflattering pictures. Senators can be snapped only when they stand to speak.

But the rules were relaxed Tuesday because of the special circumstances of Parliament’s first meeting since a national election in July.

Hinch on Wednesday conceded he had fallen asleep, but being caught out did not change his belief that photographers should not be censored in the Senate.

“I dozed off for a couple of seconds. I knew I’d been got,” the 72-year-old told Melbourne Radio 3AW, where he had recently hosted the late afternoon slot.

Hinch said he had heard everything in the speech before and an afternoon nap had been his daily routine before broadcasting his radio program.

“It must be a habit I have to break,” the independent senator said.

Hinch said that while he had only been nudged once, another lawmaker admitting to being nudged awake three times during the same speech and a that government minister had also fallen asleep.

Hinch, who has been dubbed “the Human Headline” due to his propensity for becoming the center of news stories, said in a statement last week that his first move in the Parliament would be to try to remove the “media blackout in the Senate.”

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“The media — and thus the public — should be able to see us in action, or photograph our inaction,” he said. “If you get caught nibbling your ear wax, or counting your money or dozing: tough.”

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