CBSN

Australians Cheer, Jeer Bush

U.S. President George W. Bush, with first lady Laura Bush at left, is escorted into the Australia's Parliament by Prime Minister John Howard, in Canberra, Australia, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003. Bush thanked Australia as a long-time American ally for its commitment to the Iraq war.
AP
President Bush is on the last leg of a trip meant to underscore the U.S. commitment to the war on terror - a message he hopes will resonate loudly both abroad and at home.

The last stop for Mr. Bush is Hawaii, where he will participate in a memorial ceremony at Pearl Harbor before visiting a local elementary school.

Air Force One left for Hawaii at the end of the day Thursday in Canberra, Australia, where Mr. Bush got a mixed reception.

Two senators opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the son of a terror suspect heckled the American president when he spoke to Australia's Parliament on Thursday. But Mr. Bush shrugged it off, smiled broadly and won applause by saying: "I love free speech."

Sen. Bob Brown and Sen. Kerry Nettle, both minority Green Party lawmakers, were ordered out of the chamber, but refused to leave. Brown even shook Mr. Bush's hand after the speech that was capped by a standing ovation.

Ahmed Habib, 18, the son of a terror suspect being held by U.S. authorities at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was removed from the public gallery, where he was sitting as a guest of the Green Party. He shouted: "Hey, Bush, what about my father's rights?!"

Habib is being held without charge on suspicion of training with al-Qaida.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller reports Mr. Bush - asked later about the treatment of two Australians being held at Guantanamo - adamantly denied they have been mistreated.

"Somebody in the Australian media when they were in America asked me about torture," Mr. Bush told reporters. "It's alleged allegations of torture. It's ridiculous - utterly ridiculous."

The heckling the U.S. president got while addressing the Australian Parliament was a new experience for him, but not entirely new to that legislative body, where lawmakers often heckle each other during raucous debates.

Brown was the first to interrupt Mr. Bush, as the president said people should be happy that Saddam Hussein's regime had been toppled in Iraq. When a parliamentary official motioned for Brown to leave, he shook his head and sat in his seat.

When Mr. Bush paid tribute to Australia for promoting peace in Southeast Asia, Brown shouted: "But we are not a sheriff."

It was a reference to Mr. Bush's recent comment that Australia is a lawman in the war on terror. The comment apparently was intended to portray Australia as being on equal footing with the United States. Instead, it reinforced sentiment among some Asian nations that Canberra was an agent for the Bush administration.

As Nettle shouted protests about the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush sipped water and won applause from lawmakers as he smiled broadly and said: "I love free speech."

Many members of the main opposition Labor Party share Brown and Nettle's anti-war sentiments but were ordered by their leader Simon Crean to behave themselves during the speech.

Some Labor legislators made a muted protest by remaining seated in their green leather chairs during a standing ovation at the end of the speech.

Earlier, 41 opposition lawmakers signed a letter criticizing Mr. Bush's decision to go to war, saying a clear and present danger in Iraq did not exist.
As Mr. Bush arrived at the parliament, his entourage was greeted by several thousand noisy demonstrators, who were banging drums and carrying signs that said: "Bush Go Home," "Go back to Texas" and "Osama bin Bush." Police held back the surging protesters, who were kept about 100 yards away from where Mr. Bush entered the building.

Mr. Bush was warned in advance to expect some heckling by anti-war lawmakers, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan, adding that Sen. Brown later thanked Mr. Bush for listening to his protest.

"That's the Australian Parliament for you," McClellan said. He said Mr. Bush felt warmly received.

Later, thousands of protesters marched to the U.S. Embassy and a few scuffled with police as they tried to break through security barriers.

The protesters then marched to Howard's official residence, where the prime minister was hosting a barbecue for his American counterpart.

Police Superintendent Rob Gilliland said four people were arrested. He did not know if the protesters would be charged.

Gilliland said Mr. Bush's security had not been breached by demonstrators and denied claims by rally organizers some officers used excessive force. Some protesters had been "consistently violent," toward police he said.

"A number of metal poles were thrown at police. However, no one was injured," he added.