Derryn Hinch

And no religion, too … as John Lennon sang in his anthemic Imagine.

This won’t win me many friends inside or outside Parliament but, in a non-sitting week for the Senate, I have a question:

Each morning that the Senate is in session, the warning bells ring a few minutes before 9.30 to tell us the formalities are about to begin. We all stand like school kids at our desks as Senate President Stephen Parry walks in. He is granted judge’s status with a nod of our heads, and he then leads us all in a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer.

Well, not all of us. A few of the non-believers, the atheists and agnostics, like Hinch, Larissa Waters, Louise Pratt and Skye Kakoschke-Moore, stare ahead or look at the ceiling. I suspect many others, who seem to mumble their way through the prayer, took the Affirmation and not the Oath when they were sworn in. In fact, there weren’t many Bibles being held in the right hand on August 30.

What is the protocol? If you’re not a Christian, are you meant to show respect by closing your eyes or bowing your head? Would we be showing more respect and honesty by not entering the chamber until after the prayer bit is over? But then you’d be filing in during the minute of silence that follows and the ungrammatical Welcome to Country.

Which leads to my main question: Why does every session start with a recitation of a Christian prayers at all? What ever happened to separation of church and state? And if there is to be a religious start to each morning session, why not a Buddhist chant one day or a Hillsong song or a Greek Orthodox prayer?

What does Muslim MP Anne Aly do in the House of Reps where a similar ceremony plays out? And, as Labor’s Emma Husar, a Catholic, pointed out to me, it’s always the Protestants’ version of the Lord’s Prayer that is used.

She had a good idea: why not an affirmation like we have as a choice when being sworn in or when you become a citizen?

Answers to this Dear Abby quandary are welcome.

Speaking of Anne Aly, our first and only female Muslim rep in the House of Reps, we were seated together on a recent early-morning Canberra-Melbourne shuttle flight, and I witnessed what could have been an embarrassing moment. I skipped breakfast, but Aly ordered the poached eggs — which came served with bacon.

She pointed out her Muslim faith and the offending pieces of pig were removed. Then the confession: ‘The only time I can say ‘I love bacon’ is when I’m talking about my family. My family name is Bacon”.

Shutterbug update

My campaign to give still photographers the same rights in the Senate as they have in the Lower House is inching (hinching?) along.

I’m getting used to the two new buzz words in a nearly hung Parliament: “negotiate” and “compromise”.

We did that to blunt most of the cuts to ARENA and keep that futuristic project alive, and I agreed to have my motion to end Senate camera censorship shunted off to a committee for review.

That would be the same committee that green-lighted the same changes two years ago and recommended they be introduced by September 2014.

The committee must report back next month, and hopefully the green light will be on again. The government tells me they support it. The most vociferous Labor opponent was Stephen Conroy, and he sneaked off into the night (unphotographed) on the last night of the last session.

Maybe that’s why when a photographer, laden with camera gear, swung open one of those heavy Senate doors for me the other day, he said: “Do anything for you, mate.”

Indulgent quote of the week: Red Symons and his reference to “that old guy in the Senate who looks like Derryn Hinch with young person’s hair”.

Peter Fray

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