"He's an ugly man, he's always been an ugly man."
—Rickie Lee Jones,
"Ugly Man", Evening of My Best Day (2003)

From the White House transcript of remarks by President of the United States, George W. Bush, to the Australian Parliament in Canberra, October 22, 2003:

PRESIDENT BUSH: . . . By your principled actions, Australia is leading the way to peace in Southeast Asia. And America is grateful. Together -- (audience interruption) -- Together with my country, with Australia, is promoting greater economic opportunity. Our nations are now working to complete a U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement that will add momentum to the free trade throughout the Asia Pacific region, while producing jobs in our own countries. (Audience interruption.)

SPEAKER ANDREW: Senator Nettle will resume her seat. Sergeant, remove Senator Nettle. Senator Nettle will resume her seat. The President has the call. Senator Nettle is warned. The Sergeant will remove Senator Nettle.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I love free speech. (Laughter.)

Members of the public were barred from the Senate chambers for the U.S. President's speech, and prohibited from using public-address systems on the Parliament grounds while the President was there. Protests were limited to a free speech zone, and no vehicles were permitted access to the area (any equipment used by protestors or news media had to be carried in).

Senator Kerry Nettle is a Green Party senator representing New South Wales. Nettle was born in 1973 and grew up in Marsfield in the north west of Sydney. Nettle was elected the first Greens Senator for New South Wales in November, 2001, and took her seat in August, 2002. The first twelve months of her term were dominated by opposition to the Howard government's anti-terrorism and war-related legislation. On October 22, her colleague, Bob Brown, also interrupted the President's speech and as a result, the two were suspended from Parliament for 24 hours.

I love free speech. Honestly. Free speech allows us to express our vision, our opinions, our dissent. Without it, this site and many more like it wouldn't exist. But more importantly free speech grants us the ability to publicly express our dissent towards leaders without fear of imprisonment or retaliation of any kind.

But realistically, when Senators Nettle and Brown interrupted the President Bush's address on October 13, 2003 they were in violation of parliamentary procedure. To keep Australian Parliament, or the United States Congress at that matter, from becoming a shouting match, certain rules must be follow to keep order. When the Senators broke these rules in an exercise of civil disobedience many viewed as grandstanding, Speaker Neil Andrew incited the censure of removal from parliament. And after the President's address the one day suspension was invoked by a vote of the quorum.

The President responded to the outburst proclaimed with a bit of a chuckle, "I love free speech." But what did the President mean by this? Both of the Senators are stringent opponents of the War on Iraq, which they vocalized in part of their interruption. Bush's response was almost to say, We enjoy free speech, and soon, so will the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein regularly imprisoned and executed dissidents. When he seized power men who were rivals or simply opposed his leadership were dragged from Iraqi Parliament, and many were never seen again.

This phrase, "I love free speech," with his chuckle and smirk as the Australian Senators were being led out had a ring of irony and left a bad taste in people's mouths. It was not taken the way the President had intended. Opponents of the President, who feel the freedom of speech and other civil liberties may be on the decline, saw a comparison with Saddam Hussein, though much more mild, and his tyrannical hold on Iraq.

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