Leading article: Aussie rules

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The Independent Online

We were looking forward to Kevin Rudd's term as Australia's Prime Minister, and so far we have not been disappointed. On the contrary, with his plain speaking, his firm principles as a politician and – a bit of a luxury, this – his fluent Mandarin, Mr Rudd has not only met our expectations, but inspired not a little envy as well.

He has just been in Britain, where he held bilateral talks and delivered a packed lecture at the London School of Economics. Given Australia's geographical position, his past as a diplomat in China and the coincidence of the shambolic passage of the Olympic torch through London, he was bound to be asked for his views.

This is what he said. On the torch: "We will not be having Chinese security forces or Chinese security services providing security for the torch when it is in Australia... We, Australia, are providing that security." On China and Tibet: "It's very difficult... you still have problems on human rights." On Beijing's refusal to meet the Dalai Lama: "There have been such contacts in the past – they need to be resuscitated." As for the Olympics, he said he opposed a boycott but had not yet decided whether to attend in person.

As it happened, Beijing was his next stop. Preceded by a diplomatic demarche over remarks on Tibet he made in Washington, Mr Rudd was undeterred. He gave a huge hall of students some unpalatable home truths; what is more, he did it in their own language. On human rights in China generally, in Tibet in particular, and on the need for dialogue, he was bang on message – his own. The world needs more leaders like this; we hope he has started as he means to go on.

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