‘Red Alert’! Knott spouts more drivel over Solomon Islands ‘threat’

May 3, 2023
Small flags of Solomon Islands on a blurry background.

In the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 May, Matthew Knott, foreign affairs and national security writer, has written an alarmist piece on the inability of the Australian defence force to respond to alarming but plausible scenarios such as China establishing a military base in a nearby Pacific nation.

Were I reading this on the train going to work and becoming afraid I would probably anxiously read quickly on. But being at home marooned by illness I am riveted by that link. Conventional practice is to link to things that are source for or justify the text to which the link is attached. Deeply suspicious of the editorial command of the SMH which spells China as “buckets of blood and very very soon” I click on that link. I invite you to do the same… and discover an article that makes the SMH ‘story’ not alarming and plausible but alarmist, implausible. And irresponsible journalism. The article at link is about whether China might establish a permanent military base in the Solomons. But contains and revolves around assurance given to Foreign Minister Wong by Solomons Prime Minister Sogovare. This is the text, after argument against China by Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hasty, I mean Hastie:

The Solomon Islands government signed a security pact with China during Australia’s election campaign, leading to questions about Morrison’s engagement with Pacific leaders.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has since assured Foreign Minister Penny Wong China would not have a persistent military presence in his nation.

But Hastie said it appeared China wanted one.

“But Hastie said it appeared China wanted one.”

So that is the basis of the 2 May article discussing something implausible. I’m not inclined to give weight to raging by retired junior army officers who may or may not have made it to staff college.

The yarn arises from some leak from a table top gaming of scenarios sought by the classified version of the Defence Force Review.

Let us compare this with Iraq. Bigger country, implausible but believed reason for invasion. The “doomed before embarked on” reasons for failure included “no idea what to do next” after winning a battle.

The previous day Mr Knott wrote on this:

The radical proposal to recruit foreigners to fight for Australia

Pacific Islanders should be allowed to serve in the ADF to boost numbers, military experts say, while Andrew Hastie backed it as a pathway to citizenship.

Had I been following Mr Knott’s writing and were I to give any credence to Mr Hastie and were I riding the crowded train with its door open as normal when I was riding to school in Sydney aged 11, I might swoon near the thought at the puzzling, troubling thought of say, Fijian troops in the Australian Defence Force charging up a beach in the Solomons.

It all enters ‘beggars belief’ territory.

So what was it about the situation in the Solomons last year that caused fevered brows? There had been [1] some public unrest, [2] targeting of Chinese shopkeepers; [3] no Australian support of relevance was effective against this; [4] the Solomons secured Chinese support with policing and repairs; [5] the problem vanished from media interest… except at this balonification world of China-hating at Fairfax media, sorry, Nine Entertainment… and possibly in a corner of the secret version of the Defence Strategic Review.

I apologise if this essay has encouraged you away from sensible reading into the deep end. As Mr Knott’s essay continues I could see him (in my old fashioned way) rummaging in the bin for bits of this and that, to pad out his story. Including more suggestion of incentive for recruitment and retention. Should we do that with the foreign service too?

But tragically, you have it. The allegedly understaffed Australian defence force has contemplated invading the Solomons. Google maps, along with a map, told me just now that:

Brisbane—Honiara, Solomon Islands

Non-stop (4 per week)

3 hr 20 min


9 hr 25 min+

Return trip price, May 18 – 22

from A$1,647

2000km Brisbane – Honiara.

There is nothing in this news article to suggest ADF consideration of what the ADF might do when they got there. Except a vulgar suggestion of failure. Just like Iraq. No plan for government after declaring victory.


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