Lunch with the FT: Kevin Rudd
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As a child living on a farm in Queensland, Kevin Rudd, who would one day become prime minister of Australia, used to build castles out of cow feed. “Have you made up your mind in life?” his father would ask the frail boy, exasperated by his son’s dreamy neglect of bovine care. “Is it going to be beef or dairy?”
Rudd laughs when he tells the story. But it is a laugh tinged with sadness. Long before he became prime minister, before he learnt Chinese and became a diplomat, before he had even turned 12, his father Bert had died in the aftermath of a car crash. It was a loss that would shape Rudd’s future as well as inculcate in him a lifelong belief in improving a health system that he blamed for failing to save his father’s life. “He was a very good man,” Rudd would tell me later. “We say that about our fathers, I suppose.”
But there is more than a whiff of tragedy about Rudd’s early story. After his father’s death, his mother Margaret and her family (Kevin was the youngest of four) were evicted from the farm where they had lived as sharecroppers. Rudd remembers the “vicarious injustice” of the eviction – the details of which are disputed – crystallised when the family was temporarily forced to reside in a car. Rudd became a “charity case” at a Catholic boarding school, an experience he loathed, before transferring to a local school where his academic excellence began to shine and he set out on his course of redemption through study.
I have come to meet Rudd, 53, in his constituency of Griffith, a Brisbane suburb. He is now foreign minister in Julia Gillard’s cabinet: an adviser has warned me that Rudd will not talk about “the events of June 24”.
我约好与53岁的陆克文在他布里斯班郊区的格里菲斯(Griffith, Brisbane)选区会面。他如今是朱莉娅•吉拉德(Julia Gillard)内阁的外交部长：他的一位顾问告诫我陆克文不愿谈及“6月24日的事变”。
This was the day last year when, in a brutal political ambush, his short, in some ways remarkable, stint as prime minister was brought to an abrupt end after Gillard’s announcement that she would contend the leadership in a ballot. Rudd resigned rather than face certain loss.
He had caused something of an international stir when he swept to power in November 2007 as Labor leader after 11 years of the conservative John Howard. Among his first acts were to ratify the Kyoto protocol – reversing his predecessor’s antagonism to climate change theory – and to deliver a moving apology to his country’s Aborigines, a historical reckoning that resonated well beyond Australia’s shores. A fluent Mandarin speaker, he had also positioned himself as the first western leader capable of dealing with China on its own terms.
2007年陆克文作为工党领袖以压倒性胜利击败连续执政长达11年的保守派领袖约翰•霍华德(John Howard)后，曾在国际社会引起了不小的轰动。在他上台采取了一连串动作中，他首先批准了《京都议定书》(Kyoto protocol)——完全推翻了其前任对气候变暖理论的对立政策——而且向该国原住民作了感人肺腑的道歉，这个历史了断的影响力远远超出了澳洲本土。能说一口流利汉语的陆克文把自己定位为能自如应对中国的首位西方领导人。
Polls suggested he was the most popular prime minister in Australian history. Yet two-and-a-half years later, he was gone, brought down by Labor colleagues who never liked him and who no longer needed him when his popularity slumped.
The Riverbend Teahouse is a down-to-earth place, just a dozen or so tables on a wooden veranda outside a bookshop. It’s a glorious summer’s day in the southern hemisphere, though Brisbane has since been devastated by deadly floods.
When Rudd arrives, a discreet murmur of recognition goes up. He is taller than I had supposed. Wearing a black suit with a white shirt, his shock of white hair is incongruous against a cherubic face. He seems relaxed as he scans the wine list. “I suppose we should have a Kiwi one,” he tells the waitress. “OK, he’s a Brit, so he’ll drink a bottle,” he needles.
He is soft-spoken, almost droll, in his delivery. He explains that he has been at Brisbane’s cricket ground. Although it is a Saturday, he is on duty. “My job for the morning was explaining the finer points of the game to a visiting Chinese delegation,” he says. Rudd was obliged to draw on his excellent Mandarin, which he learnt at university in Australia and during stints as a student in Taiwan and a diplomat in Beijing in the 1980s. I wondered how he had explained leg-before-wicket in Chinese. “If you stand in front of the three bamboo sticks,” Rudd begins, re-enacting his valiant attempt.
The waitress is back with our bottle of Rapaura Springs, a Sauvignon Blanc that goes perfectly with summer weather. “Now, what’s good here?” He’s playing along with the FT Lunch theme. But I wonder if there is something forced about his joviality. (I had mentioned to one of his advisers I wanted to meet Rudd the human being, not Rudd the policy wonk.) “I am in the mood for some bruschetta,” he’s proclaiming, music-hall fashion. “I don’t know why. An ancient Australian dish, the old bruschetta, with a little bit of an Italian influence. Then I might just have a prosciutto salad, I think. Stick with my Italian theme.” I lamely follow his lead with the bruschetta and order a sushi platter as a main course before realising how odd the combination is.
服务员端来了我们点的Rapaura Springs，这种白苏维翁葡萄酒(Sauvignon Blanc)最适合夏日里饮。“那么，你想采访点啥？”他直奔《金融时报》午餐会采访主题。但我感觉他的轻松神情是装出来的。（我曾对他的顾问说自己想了解作为普通人的陆克文，而不是政治老学究的陆克文。）“我想点蒜末烤面包(bruschetta)，”他正色道，严肃得就如同在音乐厅一般。“我也不知道什么原因，我就是喜欢蒜末烤面包这道古老的澳大利亚菜，得稍微带点意大利风味。然后嘛，我再来点意大利熏火腿沙拉，始终不离意大利主题。”虽说不情愿，但还是顺着他的意点了蒜末烤面包，主菜则点了寿司大拼盘，点完后才意识到这种搭配显得不伦不类。
I turn to the subject of Thomas Rudd, his ancestor, who was transported from London to Australia in 1789. “My forbear was unremarkable,” he says, a strange opening to a most remarkable tale. “He was a 17-year-old London dustman accused by a scullery maid of having nicked a pair of shoes from the back step of a house.” Thomas missed passage on the First Fleet, where conditions were relatively humane. Instead, he made the Second Fleet (“the Death Fleet”), which had been privatised to save money. The operators were paid for each person shipped, rather than for each one they delivered alive. “One of the bizarre tender conditions was that the successful tenderer could retain, for subsequent resale, any leftover victuals,” Rudd says. “Your FT readers will appreciate this.” The operator, a west African slaver, duly cut back rations. Around one-quarter of the convicts, shackled below deck, starved to death.
我把话题转向他的先祖托马斯•路德(Thomas Rudd)，他在1789年从伦敦被流放至澳洲。“我的先祖是个普通人，”他说，给这个颇具传奇的故事开了个奇怪的开场白。“他当时17岁，在伦敦当清洁工，一个厨房女佣指控他躲在房子楼梯后在一双鞋上划痕。”托马斯没赶上押解囚犯到澳洲、待遇相对人道些的“第一舰队”(First Fleet)。相反，他被押送上被称为“死亡舰队”(the Death Fleet)的“第二舰队”。为节省费用船队改由私人经营，并按每位囚犯付给承运者费用，而不按押到澳洲之后每个活人计算费用。“当时最奇怪的竞标状况是船上剩下的食物归最后的竞标者，事后对方可以出售，”陆克文说：“《金融时报》的读者都能理解。”承运商是个西非奴隶贩子，适度削减每个囚犯的定量食物。所有犯人在船舱底下手脚被锁链铐着，最后（到澳洲时）约有四分之一的人被饿死。
“My bloke survived,” Rudd continues, recounting how Thomas, after serving his seven-year sentence, worked his passage back to England via China. He was convicted again, this time for stealing a bag of sugar. “So far as I know this was the only doubly convicted, doubly transported Australian convict.” Released a second time, Thomas was granted land outside Sydney as part of a more liberal emancipation policy. He died at 70, a respectable citizen and an embodiment of the sway that public policy holds over people’s lives, first through shipping him to Australia for a minor crime and eventually helping his rehabilitation by giving him the means to make an income.
Four slices of bruschetta arrive on a long, thin plate. Smothered in ricotta cheese, heaving with succulent red and yellow tomatoes and garnished with fresh basil, it proves an excellent choice. I eat, while Rudd talks – heaped fork frozen in mid-air – about his apology, in February 2008, to the “lost generations” of Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their families.
服务员端上用长长的薄盘子盛的四块蒜末烤面包，它上面盖着意式乳清干酪(ricotta cheese)，又堆了多汁的红黄色番茄，还用新鲜的紫罗装点，看来这道菜点对了！我边吃边听，当陆克文说到2008年二月他向 “被偷掉的一代”(lost generations)原住民孩子（他们被强制从自己家中掳走）道歉时，我举着满叉子的食物停在半空中，听得入神。
“I grew up in rural Australia on a farm. We had very little contact with Aboriginal people. Certainly as I got older, I think it became more and more transparent that the nation really couldn’t move forward until it had dealt with the past.” Rudd wrote the speech himself, having rejected various drafts that he found too stilted or emotional. His delivery was pitch perfect. “Because it was authentically from me, as PM of the country, then I think it worked because I wasn’t bullshitting about any of it,” he says. “What surprised all of us here was that it was seen and watched around the world. I think Australians had very little consciousness of the fact, and I include myself, that the world had always had a question mark in the back of its mind about how we had dealt with the first Australians.”
The waitress comes to take the plate away. “He’s talking too much,” Rudd jokes, nodding at me. In truth, he has been doing all the gabbing and he crams in a quick mouthful while he can.
I want to know about China. Many Australians were disappointed at the lack of obvious dividend from having a Mandarin-speaking prime minister. In WikiLeaks cables released shortly after our lunch, Rudd describes himself as a “brutal realist on China” and is heard recommending that Washington should draw Beijing into international institutions, if possible, but stand ready to use force if it cannot. To me he says: “China is the cause of great hope and, for some, deep pessimism. On balance, I am still in the optimist camp.” But he has some “covenantal beliefs” on human rights that will necessarily bring him into conflict with Beijing, he says, referring to his willingness to lecture the Chinese leadership publicly on this topic.
我想了解他对中国的看法。很多澳洲国民对这样一位汉语流利、但又明显缺乏西方背景的总理颇为失望。就在我们午餐会后不久，据维基解密(WikiLeaks)透露，在对华政策上，陆克文称自己是“无情的现实主义者” (brutal realist on China)，并向华盛顿建议如有可能，应把中国纳入国际体系，倘若不行，就应对华强硬。他对我这样说：“中国是全球之希望所在，而有些人则是持极度悲观看法。总而言之，我仍属乐观阵营。”但他对人权仍抱有“契约式的信念”，此举必然会使其与北京发生冲突，他说道，所指就是他愿意就人权问题对中国领导层进行公开说教。
He pours me some water, apologising when he realises he has just diluted my wine. Our second course arrives, his a salad with shredded prosciutto, apples, walnuts and a blue-cheese dressing, mine a collection of California rolls. Did he feel betrayed by the Chinese for killing his dream of a climate change agreement in Copenhagen? After all, he told Australian journalists he had been “rat-f**ked” by Beijing. He gives me a weary smile. “I believe China could have done more. I think they are unfamiliar with the game of high-level negotiations,” he says. Though China was obstructionist, he denies Copenhagen was a washout. “If I was putting it on a Richter scale of one to 10, I would give it about a six.”
他给我倒了点水，当意识到是把水倒进了我酒中后，连声说对不起。我们要的第二道菜端上来了，他要的是由捣碎的意大利熏火腿、苹果、核桃以及蓝色干酪调料(Blue Cheese Dressing)的沙拉拼盘，我要的则是各式加州面包卷。中国扼杀了他在哥本哈根气候峰会达成协议的梦想，为此是否有被出卖的感觉？他曾告诉澳大利亚记者，说到底，自己被北京愚弄了。他露出一丝疲倦的笑容。“我觉得中国应该能做得更多，我认为他们不熟悉高层谈判这一套，”他说。虽然中国在哥本哈根气候峰会上是个蓄意阻挠者，但他不认为峰会是个失败。“若用地震学上的里氏1至10级来衡量的话，我认为此次峰会相当于震级6级。”
That is not how it was perceived back home. It was after Copenhagen that his love affair with the Australian public soured. When he withdrew a bill to introduce a domestic emissions trading scheme, his ratings collapsed. The perception was that he had ditched his principles. He insists he was merely making a tactical retreat after two Senate defeats. “In the PR battle, which I concede that I lost, it was seen as a loss of resolve.”
Rudd had always been more popular with the public than with a party that saw him as aloof, a policy wonk in politician’s clothing. I press him gently on the reasons for the implosion of his premiership, starting with his attempt to impose a “mining supertax”. He had not bothered to build political consensus, failing even to inform his resources minister. “These matters are controversial and I won’t, in this interview or anywhere else, elaborate on what I describe as the events of June 24,” he intones, referring to that extraordinary party coup.
I have another go. This time, I refer extensively to a devastating critique by Australian journalist David Marr of The Sydney Morning Herald, who depicts Rudd as lacking political savvy and alienating advisers and colleagues. Rudd is portrayed as rude, inaccessible – “it’s easier to get in to see the Pope than Kevin” – intellectually arrogant, obsessive, secretive, cold, a control freak. Does he recognise any of this? “Nice try as a second way of opening up the events of June 24,” he says, this time with a touch of anger. “I won’t change my practice of not reflecting publicly on those factors for the simple reason that I don’t think it is productive.” Then he adds in a slightly more conciliatory tone: “I am as flawed and as failed as anyone else in the human race.”
我另起话题，这次提及的是《悉尼晨锋报》(The Sydney Morning Herald)的澳洲本国记者大卫•玛尔(David Marr)对他大肆炮轰之事，此事广为人知，他说陆克文缺乏政治智慧，疏远政治顾问与同事。陆克文给人的形象是粗鲁、难以亲近——“见教皇都比见陆克文要容易”——自以为是、狂妄自大、做事偷偷摸摸、冷漠，是个控制狂。那您认识到上述问题了吗？“这是你企图委婉地再次引出6月24日事变的话题，”他说，这一次有点生气。“我不会改变我的做事习惯：再不在公开场合反思那些我认为于事无补的因素（虽说原因很简单）。”然后他又补充道，语气稍为舒缓了些：“我和所有的凡人一样，难免有缺点，也会做错事。”
I have been picking at my sushi. Some of the rice is hard. He is working his way diligently through the salad. Rudd, who is a devout Christian, is telling me a story about an “enormously intelligent” Jesuit friend in Rome whose main preoccupation is with what he calls “the globalisation of superficiality”. Rudd says mankind has rarely faced such complex, interconnected problems. “The need is greatest but we are least equipped.”
Part of it is the sheer physical stamina required by modern politicians, pummelled by a 24-hour domestic news cycle and stretched by a global agenda spanning multiple time zones. He remembers the April 2009 G20 summit in London when the leaders of the world were “staring into the abyss” around Gordon Brown’s dinner table. “There we were, all dog-tired, all flown in from wherever and knowing that unless we came out with a coherent set of actions ... the markets would collapse.” This, evidently, is not how things should be done.
Rudd attracts the waitress’s attention. “The son of the British empire wants tea,” he says. “I’ll have coffee.” He sums up. “I believe in politics for the two questions it asks of us. One is, ‘What do you stand for and why?’ And the second is, ‘Do you know what you are talking about?’” Rudd, a conviction politician who has pondered such questions since his days immersed in cow feed, can hold his hand on his heart and answer both in the affirmative. The implication is that many of the leaders we are stuck with cannot.
David Pilling is the FT’s Asia managing editor
Bruschetta with cherry tomatoes and ricotta cheese x2 A$22.00
Prosciutto salad A$16.00
Combination sushi platter A$15.00
Bottle of Rapaura Springs Sauvignon Blanc A$38.00