Condolences – Senator Andrew James (Jim) Molan, AO, DSC

I rise to speak on the condolence motion for Senator Jim Molan, as others have in this place. I would thank each of the speakers who’ve come before me for their comments, particularly the member for Eden-Monaro and the member for Braddon, who, I think, gave us a perspective that very few of us in this place would have, one that highlighted the qualities of Jim Molan probably better than most, of someone so close to him during his time in defence.

I want to start by not only offering my deepest condolences to the family—Jim’s wife, Anne; their children, Sarah, Erin, Felicity and Michael; and the grandchildren—but, equally, thanking them for supporting Jim with everything that he did in his time in defence, in the community and in the parliament. It was a total life of service, but, as members in this place know, to be able to contribute to the community in such a way we need loved ones around us to support us in what we do. Well, Jim was able to contribute to his nation, with the support of his family, as well as everything else he did. I really want to acknowledge and thank his family for supporting him in everything that he did throughout his life. I’m sure Jim himself knew that so much of what he is able to achieve was done with the support and encouragement of such a close and loving family, and I thank them very much for that.

I’ll miss Jim as a colleague and I know all of my colleagues feel the same way because, in his wonderful way, he had an influence on us all. We all know about his strong leadership. Leadership comes in so many different ways, and Jim showed it even in this place to all of us in the quiet way that he encouraged us, in the way that he listened to his colleagues, in the way that he encouraged us, as we heard from the member for Braddon. He encouraged us in the same way that he encouraged his troops. When you raised an issue with him, he encouraged you, he offered a few thoughts, but then he encouraged you to talk about what you thought about that particular issue.

That strong leadership is his legacy not only for his family and for us in this place but, as a member from Braddon said, for everyone who served with him and for him and through that loyalty that you’ve seen developed through such an honourable and decent human being who served his country with great honour. He is one of those people in Defence that, when I’ve been elsewhere in the world—and there is an enormous respect globally for our Australian Defence Force members—Jim would be at the top of that tree of respect. He is the reason why we are so well respected globally, as are members of our
defence forces.

He was a true patriot and a great Australian. That’s how I hope he’s remembered, not just for his 40-year career in the Army and reaching the rank of major general. He took on some very challenging roles and brought the communities that he served with him along the way by being part of that community and supporting the community in what it wanted to achieve as well as helping that community. We saw that in Papua New Guinea, in East Timor, in Indonesia, in Malaysia and in Germany. He served in the US and in Iraq, as we know. Those smaller communities would certainly have benefited from Jim’s wisdom and his willingness to listen and work with the local community and with our defence forces while they were there.

His Distinguished Service Cross was certainly well deserved. He had an extensive career in Defence that others have talked about and then he came into the Senate in 2017. Earlier than that, in 2013, one of the challenges we faced in this House was with the illegal maritime arrivals. Jim’s role was as the envoy for stopping the boats. He was the very architect who helped to break the people smugglers’ model and save the lives of a large number of people from overseas because they weren’t arriving on leaky boats and being left stranded. Jim was a key part of saving those lives as well, and that’s something that I would not want people to overlook. He actually helped to break the smugglers’ business model, but more importantly he helped save people’s lives. We have heard today about his role as a firefighter locally, another form of service for Jim. He was also a senator when he came into this place.

I found Jim to be a wonderful colleague and, equally, the friend that you could count on and the friend that would maintain a confidence. You could have conversations with Jim about a range of matters. He was someone I rang whenever I wanted his advice on military, national security and defence matters because, like so many others, I trusted him. I trusted his advice; I respected and trusted the advice that Jim gave me, especially on national security. We had many lively discussions, especially when I had a good read of his most recent book, Danger On Our Doorstep. I have a feeling that this particular work—in part, as he said, fiction and then focused on the facts—is being used in a broader sense by some of our Western allies and referenced for a range of other purposes in a broader global security sense. I have no doubt about that, given the contents of that book. We had several discussions over what he’d written and the conclusions he’d reached and his analysis that was contained throughout that book.

Well, as has been said, none of us were really ever in any doubt as to what Jim thought or believed in, because he was a patriot and he had strong views. But, equally, when you had a discussion with Jim, Jim didn’t talk down to you. In spite of his broader knowledge and experience than you had in that field, your views were respected, valued. He listened and he was thoughtful about what you had to offer, and he thought before he gave you a response. He was just a great bloke. I just found him a great bloke and a great colleague, and someone who, as I say, was a really respected and trusted source of information
and advice.

Then, when he was fighting cancer, I think what we all saw, particularly on our side, who were with him throughout that process and saw the struggle, was that courage and passion he brought to his role, in his family, in his community, in the Army was the same as what he brought to his fight against cancer: positive, facing forward, keeping up a really strong presence, not giving in, and doing his best to fight it. I’m sure, when you saw him on television or you saw him interviewed, even when he was from home, Jim wanted you to see him still fighting the fight, whether it was about issues—the cancer was another fight that basically he didn’t make much of. He was fighting other fights for the good of this nation, and that’s what he did right until the last. And I’m sure that’s an enduring memory for us all.

Jim was a truly great Australian, a great patriot. He provided incredible service to Australia that is an example for us all. Jim’s earnt the right to rest in peace, but he’s left an incredible legacy for this nation and one that we should all work in this place to not forget and to seek to emulate.