Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:19 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:19 | SYDNEY

The logic of Chalmers


Sam Roggeveen


8 February 2008 15:56

You may be familiar with a charming little e-newsletter called Inside Canberra, penned by Rob Chalmers? In his latest installment, not available online, Chalmers makes some rather cutting remarks about what he calls 'the logic of Roggeveen'. I have some reservations about Chalmers' views, but I'm grateful to him for that phrase, which has a certain cadence, and may grace my byline when (any day now) The Daily Telegraph offers me a regular column. As to the substance of Chalmers' remarks  

Chalmers first claims that I believe there is a danger of the Chinese navy putting anti-ship missiles onto passenger ferries:

For example, on the ABC’s AM program a week ago, Sam Roggeveen (a ‘former senior analyst at the Office of National Assessments) warned about the dangers of a joint venture set up by the Australian company, AMD and a Chinese partner selling designs for a catamaran passenger ferry to China. The Chinese, he said, ‘could’ put anti-ship missiles on these ferries.

Ummm, no. That's not what I told the ABC, and it's not the construction they put on my remarks. Nor could you come away from reading my blog post with that impression. But as later becomes clear, Chalmers hasn't done me the courtesy of actually reading that post before attacking me. To be clear: AMD, as well as selling catamaran passenger ferry designs to China, is also selling hull designs to China's navy, via a joint venture. These designs are used to build dedicated warships. There has never been any question of putting missiles onto ferries.

Moving on, Chalmers then notes how many caveats I place on my remarks about the likelihood of China and Taiwan going to war. OK, so I was being a bit wishy washy because I didn't want to sound too alarmist about the chances of conflict. Chalmers seems to agree, because in his next paragraph, he makes precisely the same point, but in the process he scolds me for being too alarmist!:

Despite what “strategic analysts” say, China and the US are a long, long way from a war.

To top off this list of contortions, Chalmers says:

Following the logic of Roggeveen, we should immediately cease exports to China of coal and iron ore, basic elements in weapons production. Should we cease exporting wheat to feed the Chinese army?

But had Chalmers read my blog post (referenced in the AM piece, so he could not have been unaware of its existence), he would know that I make precisely the same point. Groan.