BBC NewsAndrew Marr Show


Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Sunday, 6 April 2008 11:35 UK

Tibet: 'Boycotts don't work'

On Sunday 06 April Andrew Marr interviewed Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia

Kevin Rudd, Chinese-speaking Australian Prime Minister says sustained engagement gets results.

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia
Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia

ANDREW MARR Can I ask about you, you're unfamiliar still to British audiences - you've been in power now for four months...

KEVIN RUDD Well my family left here in 1790 - I don't know why!

ANDREW MARR 1790, and have you been back since, or not?

KEVIN RUDD Just recently. My family's first visit was paid for by His Majesty's Government, so...

ANDREW MARR One of those!

KEVIN RUDD That's right. Both sides, I understand.

ANDREW MARR Both sides - convicts on both sides!

KEVIN RUDD An absolute pedigree!

ANDREW MARR You speak mandarin, and you've been in China, you're going to China this coming week, you've been in China many times. What, therefore, do you say to those people who are protesting vociferously about Tibet, and saying that actually leaders like yourself should not participate in the opening ceremonies of games until the Dalai Lama has been brought into dialogue, until the repression has stopped?

KEVIN RUDD When the world community decided to accord Beijing the Games way back when, there were human rights abuses in China at that time, and in Tibet, and since then as well.

These events of course have involved violence, and we urge restraint on the part of all parties, and we urge that the Chinese authorities deal with the Dalai Lama's representatives to work out a better outcome for the Tibetan people. But my view has always been, and I've said it again today, that boycotts don't work. What does work is sustained engagement with the Chinese, and registering firmly and clearly our views on these human rights practices.

ANDREW MARR You've been invited I think personally by the Chinese President Hu to the Games, with your family. Are you going to attend come what may?

KEVIN RUDD No, what I've said to the Chinese ever since that invitation was extended - of course we've accepted it in principle, but it's subject to timing and availability and conflicting requirements, and that still remains the position - the Games are still some way off, and we'll make our decision in due season.

ANDREW MARR Now of course Australia is very close to China, comparatively speaking, your market is very open to Chinese produce and so on. How do you balance the need for economic growth and a dialogue with China with actually putting real pressure onto the Chinese administration over Tibet, over other human rights problems?

KEVIN RUDD Well it's just a question of being consistent. You need to recognise where China has come from, where it's going to, how far it's got. As I said the China of the Cultural Revolution, the China which is exporting radical communist ideology around the world of the sixties and seventies, is not the China of today. But there are still problems.

This is still a one party state: let's just call a spade a spade here. There are still human rights abuses. But it's important through the process of economic engagement, the overwash of globalisation, the emergence of new technologies, the internet and everything else, to engage the Chinese at every level, be frank about the differences, particularly on human rights, including on Tibet, and be frank about the areas of continuing co-operation. It's a complex relationship: no-one pretends it's not.

It's not a black-white, either-or thing. But I think in Australia we try and prosecute this double-barrelled agenda, and we try to do it to the best of our ability.

ANDREW MARR What are you going to do for the indigenous people of Australia, because you made that one of your campaign pledges?

KEVIN RUDD Well the first day of the Parliament, which was convened after the election of our government, I delivered a formal apology in the Parliament to indigenous Australians of the stolen generation.

ANDREW MARR Just for those who don't understand, the generation lost becauseż

KEVIN RUDD Well stolen generation is a phrase used in Australia for some years. Essentially in Australia from the early part of the twentieth century, through until about the 60s and 70s, a series of policies - usually by Australian state governments - a series of policies, usually to forcibly remove Australian aboriginal children from their parents, and put them into either the care of the state or into foster care of various church or state run institutions.

And this resulted in tens of thousands of aboriginal Australians, many of whom are alive today, many of whom I met personally when I delivered that apology in the Parliament, and so I thought it was important to right that wrong.

You know, it's been there, unfinished business for Australia, but then move on, crossing a bridge of respect into how do we close the gap in life expectancy, infant mortality, health outcomes, education outcomes, and the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, and we will now invest in that.

ANDREW MARR You are, you've been very open about it, a Republican, and the Queen has in turn said it's up to the people of Australia to decide who their head of state will be. Would it be a disappointment to you if you ended your term in office without an Australian as your head of state, and therefore Australia as a republic?

KEVIN RUDD Well the Australian Labor Party has long had in its platform our commitment to Australia as a Republic. And that remains unchanged What I've also said prior to the last election, for us this is not a top order priority, I'm sure we'll get to it in due season, but it's not a top order priority.

There are other challenges facing Australia now, the global financial crisis, our productivity agenda at home, dealing with the indigenous agenda you spoke about earlier, and also extending Australia's voice into the counsels of the world to deal with some of these global problems.

ANDREW MARR So lots to talk about?

KEVIN RUDD No, lots to do.

ANDREW MARR Lots to do, and lots to talk about. But you would like to see Australia become a Republic? You yourself would like to see a Republic in Australia?

KEVIN RUDD I've always been a Republican. It's in our platform of the party, we're committed to it, and as I said it's not a top order priority. I would also say this: Her Majesty the Queen is regarded with much respect across all Australians.

ANDREW MARR Do you think...

KEVIN RUDD She's been the Queen since I've been born!

ANDREW MARR She's been there for a very long time. Do you think it's one of those cases where possibly by the time it becomes King Charles, or however he chooses to call himself, that's the moment to move on for Australia?

KEVIN RUDD As I said before - and nice try in terms of a timeline, but I'm not going to deliver one to you - for us it's not a top-order priority.

ANDREW MARR Now something a lot of people have said to me is you've committed yourself to pulling Australian combat troops out of Iraq, and you're going to do that by the summer, I think...

KEVIN RUDD Yes we should have our combat force out by the summer, August I think is the final date.

ANDREW MARR Now how did you manage to achieve that and still be warmly welcomed by George Bush in Washington? That was a bit of an achievement, wasn't it?

KEVIN RUDD Well I've believe in just saying what you're going to do and being very blunt about it.

Before the election, I met President Bush when he visited Sydney last year, and I was Leader of the Opposition at the time. I said our party was committed to bringing our forces out of Iraq, I wanted to negotiate with him if we won the election the precise timetabling of it, because I think the attitude of a responsible ally is not to leave your ally in the lurch, not to get elected one day and walk out the next - that's not the way friends do business.

But on top of that, it's my overriding view, of someone who's always been a strong supporter of the US alliance, ever since I've been in public life and before that as a diplomat in Australia, that America's an overwhelming force for good in the world, we just happen to disagree on this element of policy.

ANDREW MARR And people have been talking about this great gesture you did to George Bush.


ANDREW MARR Were you tipping your Stetson to him, or what was going on?

KEVIN RUDD No, it was just me saying 'howdee' actually, it's just a quirky sense of humour: 'how are you, how're you going, mate'.

ANDREW MARR One of the people who's been at this informal gathering, Thabo Mbeki, has taken a lot of questions about the other great crisis in the world at the moment, in Zimbabwe. I wondered if you'd had a chance to talk to him, if you had a view about this extremely delicate and now quite dangerous-looking situation in Zimbabwe

KEVIN RUDD The position I put to Thabo is that first of all the Election Commission needs to put out the election results as a matter of urgency, secondly that if as a result of that, and with the concurrence of the parties, they decide that it's appropriate to hold a runoff election, then it must be held soon, that is in the next few weeks, consistent with the provisions of Zimbabwean law. I was heartened to hear that Thabo shares that view and was expressing that view directly to both sides of politics in Harare.

ANDREW MARR Finally, you're a recently elected left-of-centre Labor leader. Any advice, any thoughts for Gordon Brown, whose party has been in power for a long time and is visibly struggling.

KEVIN RUDD Well I know you in the British media like to whack Gordon around the head as often as you can, and good luck to you, that's what you do, but as someone looking on from the outside, can I just say the leadership he's shown on the Millennium Development Goals, on global poverty, were it not for Gordon Brown, going back to the time when he was Chancellor, frankly the global agenda would not be as advanced as it is, and similarly, on climate change his engagement with those two big global challenges preceded them becoming universally globally topical, and I think that needs to be recognised for its own merits.

We all go through ups and downs in domestic politics, and I'm sure I'll be going through mine. So from an international point of view I think you've got a pretty good Prime Minister, but for domestic matters I'll leave you chaps I the media to sort that out.

ANDREW MARR Mr Rudd you have set yourself, I know, a punishing schedule, and you're off next to China, thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning.

KEVIN RUDD Good to be with you.


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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