Monday, 6 February 2023
Molan, Senator Andrew James (Jim), AO, DSC
by leave—I move:
That the Senate records its deep sorrow at the death, on 16 January 2023, of Senator Andrew James (Jim) Molan AO, DSC, senator for New South Wales and retired major general, and places on record its appreciation and gratitude for his service to the nation and the parliament, and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
President, as I move this motion to mark the contribution made by our late dear colleague Jim Molan, I begin by giving thanks. The celebrant at Jim's funeral, Father James Grant, asked one particular thing of all of us in memory of Jim. It was to better embrace the attitude of gratitude that Jim demonstrated for all that was good in his life and for those who enriched it.
Firstly, I posthumously thank Jim for his service to our nation and to our parliament, for the deep and abiding values that he lived across all facets of his life, and for the care and friendship that he demonstrated to family, to friends, to soldiers in arms, to colleagues and to countless others. It is in Jim's memory that this Senate rightly gathers today. I acknowledge the thoughtful consideration of Senator Wong in enabling me to move this motion on behalf of Jim's former Senate colleagues today.
I thank all of those who enriched Jim's life and who enabled his contribution to Australia, most particularly his dearly loved wife, Anne; his children, Michael, Felicity, Erin and Sarah; Jim's adored grandchildren; and his siblings, parents and extended family. To Anne and the other family members gathered in the gallery today: I send a big, loving hug your way.
We will hear much today of Jim's service to our nation—fittingly so—but it is the service of others in support of Jim that he would wish us to firstly acknowledge today. In acknowledging Jim, we also say thank you to all of those who served alongside Jim in our defence forces, in Public Service roles, in community or political organisations, here in the Australian Senate or in so many other walks of life. Jim was grateful for all that you gave him, and so too are we as recipients of his wisdom, his work, his camaraderie and his friendship. I extend particular acknowledgement to Jim's parliamentary and electorate staff, who have lost a leader to whom their commitment was evident and to whom they gave so much assistance, especially during some of his most trying times.
Andrew James Molan was born in Melbourne on 11 April 1950. Australia was in the early years of a halcyon post-war period of growth, rising prosperity and relative stability. Globally, however, the uncertainties of the Cold War were to hang over the years ahead. Jim was one of six children born to Andy and Noni Molan. Jim described Andy, a World War II veteran, and Noni as being quintessentially working-class people who earned a middle-class lifestyle via their hard work. He particularly acknowledged the drive of his mum in helping her children to view education as a vehicle for success in life.
Pursuing his childhood ambitions, Jim was admitted at the age of 18 into the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Both liked and respected by his classmates while at Duntroon and all throughout his life, Jim lived true to his view that blind obedience does not make for good soldiers. He would challenge and test, occasionally earn reprimand, but ultimately show the same respect in the same way that he earned the respect of those who served with him. As he said in his first speech to this place, 'Leadership is everything.' Leadership certainly was at the heart of everything that Jim achieved.
While at Duntroon, Jim was to meet Anne Williams, the love of his life and true partner in his life. Their married life was to start in the midst of Jim's first overseas posting, from 1972 to 1975 in Papua New Guinea. This was to be his first period of service as an Australian serviceman, helping another country on its journey along the sometimes difficult path towards democracy. Jim would go on to serve in Indonesia, using his Bahasa language skills on two postings as Australia's defence attache, including during the fall of the Suharto regime. He served in East Timor, as it moved towards independence, in the Solomon Islands and in Iraq. He was to see different threats—notably terrorism—grow in the challenge they posed, and the nature of conflict evolved with those changes in threats and technology. But, whatever those changes, Jim was always emphatic that people and leadership remained the keys to success.
It was in Iraq that, while serving as chief of operations to the multinational force, Jim had effective responsibility for the command of more allied troops than any other Australian military leader since World War II. While never pretending that these operations were faultless, Jim was rightly proud of the role so many played in trying to support peace, democracy and self-determination.
During his 40 years of service in the Australian Army, Jim would also serve in Malaysia, Germany and the United States. He was to serve in the 9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, the 3rd and 6th battalions Royal Australian Regiment and as the Commander of the Australian Defence College. Along the way, he was also to train as a helicopter pilot, cementing one of his great loves—flying. Jim and Anne were also to welcome four children amidst the transient and mobile life of military service: Sarah in 1981, Erin in 1983, Felicity in 1984 and Michael in 1989.
In July 2008, by then Major General Molan retired from the Army. Jim was rightly highly decorated, having been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 2006, made an officer by the United States in the Legion of Merit in 2004 and appointed, firstly, a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992 and, subsequently, an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2000.
Retirement was never likely to suit Jim Molan, though. His first book, Running the War in Iraq, was published in 2008. Jim and Anne settled on a property near Queanbeyan, and he threw himself into service as a member of the local volunteer bushfire brigade. He would use his love of flying to support rescue and emergency operations, and he'd also take that knowledge, skills and leadership attributes to become a director of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre.
Public service was soon to call again—in a different way. Jim has been acknowledged by former prime ministers Abbott and Morrison as a co-author of the coalition's Operation Sovereign Borders policy. With the election of the Abbott government in 2013, Jim was appointed as a special envoy to help oversee its implementation. As Jim was to subsequently say, 'Australia had to consistently demonstrate national resolve in facing down the people smugglers.' Jim was a big part of that resolve, which didn't just stop the boats but also stopped the deaths at sea and enabled the winding down of offshore processing centres. Through this time, Jim was also a frequent and thoughtful commentator on national security matters, writing extensively about the challenges faced in the war in Afghanistan, the ongoing threats of terrorism, the battle for democracy, the strength of Western values, and border protection policies.
Jim's many divergent experiences, his love of country and his love of public policy culminated in him becoming active in the Liberal Party and seeking Senate pre-selection ahead of the 2016 double dissolution election. He was to be unsuccessful in securing a winnable position, but fate or destiny were clearly determined that Jim was to serve in this place. It is likely that Jim Molan is the only senator in history to have been declared elected by the High Court as a result of the disqualification of others, then lost the subsequent election from another unwinnable position on a Senate ticket, then chosen to fill a Senate casual vacancy and then successfully re-elected on his third attempt. Such a roller-coaster experience may have embittered others but not Jim Molan. He treasured every single day that he was a member of the Senate from December 2017 to June 2019 and again from November 2019 until his death last month. Jim Molan was determined to make each day here count, and he did.
Looking back on his first speech five years ago in 2018, Jim demonstrated his deep intellect and knowledge in global affairs and military strategy. He specifically singled out the impact of Russia, Iran, China and North Korea as threatening the liberal world order and creating strategic uncertainty and instability. In different ways the events and actions that have occurred since have certainly validated his concerns from that time.
Some commentators portrayed Jim purely as a China hawk. This was simplistic and overlooked Jim's earliest statements that we should welcome China's emergence as a world power, especially the development gains it delivered for humanity. He was clear that we should welcome China, though, from a position of strength and needed to increase our self-reliance. For Jim it was a simple case of showing leadership in the face of a saying that he often repeated:
Be ready and be strong because the world is a nasty and brutal place.
Jim was willing to speak out even when it was uncomfortable for those he liked, trusted or supported. He did so with a sense of duty, a sense of purpose and a belief it was necessary for him to do so for the sake of the country that he loved and to preserve its values of liberty and democracy. Self-reliance was something Jim argued required a comprehensive national security strategy, embodying much more than the purchase of military equipment and defence force posture. He wrote about this, along with the potential threats we face, in his final book, Danger on Our Doorstep, for which Jim undertook interviews with an array of respected global military thinkers and strategists.
Many former Defence ministers were recipients of Jim's wisdom whether it had been solicited or not, but it was nearly always welcomed, because it was delivered was the purest of motivations, the deepest of conviction and the greatest of consideration. Once on a mission to achieve an outcome, Jim's efforts were never solely directed at defence ministers. Prime ministers and others, including finance ministers, were not exempt. I too was subject to Jim's drive to ensure Australia's national security capabilities were not narrowly defined through the prism of defence posture or defence materiel but in all aspects of our industrial and societal capability. Unfailingly polite but equally relentless, Jim would make his case in meetings, conversations, reports, papers, messages, interviews and articles. It was this advocacy by Jim that in part saw the specific budget funding for a dedicated Office of Supply Chain Resilience in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Many other colleagues will have their own examples of the impact Jim had on policies, decisions and recommendations throughout his time here, which also saw him make thoughtful contributions on issues such as veterans' wellbeing, nuclear energy and, at a very personal level, stillbirths.
A senator for New South Wales in the true sense of those words, Jim was also deeply committed to representing the state of New South Wales. As tourism minister, I travelled with Jim throughout South Coast communities to meet businesses struggling from the impact of bushfires and the onslaught of COVID. These were never just visits though, because Jim's follow-up was relentless; it was clear that he cared. Jim's advocacy was respected so widely because it was consistent. If you knew Jim and understood his values then you could nearly always know where he was likely to come from. As the Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, wrote following his death:
More than anyone I've known, in Jim Molan there was not a sliver of daylight between what he said and what he did.
But that predictability did not mean that Jim could be neatly categorised or pigeonholed. He said that on social issues he would make his mind up issue by issue, and he did, voting yes in the same-sex marriage vote and quietly supporting the principle of an Australian republic.
The last two years of Jim's service as a senator were a difficult time. He battled cancer with a determination and a resilience that surprised none who knew him. Jim had more to do, more to give, and desperately wanted more time with Anne, with his children and especially with his five grandchildren. Complaint was never a part of how Jim responded to his cancer diagnosis. As has been noted elsewhere, if anything, he shielded those he loved and those he worked alongside as much as he could, always painting an optimistic view of when he would be back at full speed. Treatments and infections did impede his ability to do all that he wanted to, but he never stopped contributing, continuing to undertake interviews, to write, to scrutinise and to hold governments to account—both ours and the new Labor government.
Following the change of government last year, Jim kept reassuring me that, even when he could not attend sittings due to treatment, he was working with his team on questions for new ministers and that he would be back here for estimates. True to form, he was back here at estimates, making his last appearance at Defence estimates on 9 November last year to grill officials, in his polite way, on the Defence Strategic Review, their military preparedness over five- and 10-year horizons and the divergent threats that Australia faces. Jim Molan was true to form, serving the interests of Australia right to the end.
It is perhaps fitting I was in Papua New Guinea, the country of Jim's first overseas posting, when I was advised, on the evening of Monday 16 January, of his death. It is a death felt with great sadness by all of Jim's colleagues, who valued his abiding commitment to Australia, his diligence as part of our Liberal and coalition Senate team and his thoughtful, caring friendship. As a national outpouring of respect and commemoration ensued, it is clear that Jim's life had touched and earned the respect of countless individuals. Australia has lost a true patriot, in the best sense of that word, and a serviceman who demonstrated unwavering dedication to the safety and security of our nation. Jim Molan served Australia as a soldier, a diplomat, a senator, a community volunteer and a strategist. He was a man of principle who was willing to make sacrifices for his beliefs and embodied the best of service to his nation. We can all best honour Jim by remaining diligent to the enduring safety, security and peace that we rely upon to safeguard Australia's democracy, liberty and prosperity.
Jim's funeral service concluded with a reading from The Infanteer, a poem written by Captain Phillip Geeves during World War II. The poem concludes with this stanza:
Should you meet him, untidy, begrimed and fatigued,
Don't indulge in unwarranted mirth,
For the brave infanteer deserves more than your sneer,
He is truly the salt of the earth.
Jim Molan was truly the salt of the earth. We are each better for knowing him and wiser for having served alongside him. Australia is stronger thanks to Jim's comprehensive service to our nation. His life did make a difference. Thank you, Jim, we salute you. Vale.
I rise on behalf of the government to express our condolences following the passing of our colleague, Senator Andrew James Molan, AO DSC, better known to us all as Senator Jim Molan. He passed away on 16 January 2023 at the age of 72.
I convey at the outset the government's condolences and my personal sympathy to Jim's family and friends. I particularly acknowledge the members of his family who are here today, including his wife, Anne, and daughters Erin and Felicity, and many others. I also express my personal sympathy to my colleagues across the chamber on your loss. It is a sad circumstance that this is the third of our number we have eulogised in just 18 months.
Senator Jim Molan lived a life of public service. He was called to serve, he chose to serve, and he did so with distinction. Jim Molan entered the Senate following a substantial career in the military that saw him attain the rank of Major General. He quite easily could have enjoyed life at a slower pace following retirement from the Australian Army. He instead took up duty once more, as a determined advocate for the people of New South Wales. His time as a parliamentarian was distinguished by his vigorous contribution to the national security debate, which will outlast his time in this place.
But his work extended well beyond national security issues. Jim Molan was a person who placed high importance on personal character and integrity, no more so than in his own conduct. Prime Minister Albanese described him as a man of principle and a politician of conviction—someone who engaged across political divides courteously and generously. That capacity to engage in that way with people from all walks of life is fondly remembered by so many. He leaves a legacy of professionalism, of dedication and of service.
Born in Melbourne, Jim Molan had only one career in mind, and he went straight to it as soon as he could. He graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1971 after entering at the age of 18. Between the beginning and the end of his military career, his distinguished service includes deployments to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Germany, the US and Iraq. Indeed, he was deployed to serve at many important junctures in our history. He was in Papua New Guinea as it turned the corner to independence, a watershed moment in the life of two nations with the end of Australian colonialism and the Papua New Guinean people achieving self-government.
Posted to Jakarta on multiple occasions in the 1990s, he was in Indonesia then Timor-Leste through the fall of President Suharto, the Asian financial crisis and Timorese independence. Occasionally he would address me in Bahasa Indonesia, a legacy of this time. 'Selamat pagi ibu,' he would say. For those who speak Indonesian, you would know that is a very respectful manner of address. He also served as Commander of the Australian Defence College, amongst other roles. In Iraq he served for a year as the chief of operations of coalition forces. He was responsible for overseeing some 300,000 personnel, more than any Australian since World War II. It was a difficult and dangerous deployment, including the 2005 election, during which time coalition and Iraqi security forces were attacked hundreds of times. His military service was appropriately recognised through the award of the Distinguished Service Cross by the Australian government and the Legion of Merit by the United States government. The citation for the Distinguished Service Cross, awarded in 2006, states it was awarded:
For distinguished service in command and leadership in action while serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Operations and Deputy Chief of Staff Civil Military Operations with Multi-National Force—Iraq from April 2004 to April 2005, during Operation CATALYST.
He was also twice recognised in the military division of the Order of Australia, including for his service as the head of the Australian Defence Force staff in Jakarta during the Indonesian and East Timor crisis.
Following the conclusion of his military career, Jim Molan remained active as a public commentator on matters of defence and security. Living on a property not far from Canberra, his active involvement in the local fire service would soon extend beyond his own brigade. In combination with his experience flying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, his tactical and crises management expertise led to a role as director of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. He also worked as a consultant and in public policy, and became actively involved in politics as a result of this. As Senator Birmingham said, he played a significant role in shaping coalition policy before and after the 2013 election.
Having unsuccessfully stood for the election to the Senate in 2016, Senator Jim Molan first entered this place in 2017. He was unsuccessful in the 2019 election, notwithstanding a personal campaign for people to vote for him below the line, which yielded nearly three per cent of the statewide total. However, later that year he became a senator once more when he was chosen by the New South Wales parliament to fill a casual vacancy, created following the resignation of Arthur Sinodinos, to become our ambassador in the United States, and he was subsequently returned at the 2022 election.
Senator Jim Molan used his platform to reflect upon and advocate for Australian military and security policy. He was deeply concerned about strategic impact and capability, and consistently advocated for an integrated national security strategy. He advocated for this publicly, to his colleagues within the coalition, I'm sure, and to all of us in the parliament throughout his time in parliament. He also wanted Australian governments to be more open in talking about strategic risk. He asked questions in estimates hearings, and most recently I was the recipient of them, as we sat on opposite sides of the table for the first time.
While Senator Molan's committee work covered the breadth of national security issues, his work extended well beyond those. I would like to make mention of a Senate committee that examined a topic of particular significance in the lives of many Australians—including in this chamber—and him personally. These were the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education and the Senate Select Committee on Autism. As Deputy Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education, Senator Molan contributed alongside senators McCarthy, Gichuhi, Keneally, Rice and Bilyk to this historic and important inquiry. Labor senators, including former Senator Keneally, conveyed to me how highly they rated Senator Molan's contribution. He brought a combination of compassion and personal experience to this difficult and emotional topic. When the report was tabled in the Senate in 2018, Senator Molan spoke of his experience and that of his family. I was so deeply moved by his words that day, as were so many others.
His collegiate parliamentary engagement on sensitive issues, whether personal issues or security issues, spoke to Jim Molan's character. During his time in this place, and prior to his arrival, Senator Molan articulated certain policy positions I do not share. We also did share common policy positions and we were able to find common ground.
Senator Jim Molan was a man whom I respected. He treated issues of defence, national security and foreign affairs with the maturity they deserve. I honour his deep convictions forged in his lifetime of service. During our parliamentary exchanges, as recently as the recent budget estimates hearings, we were able to engage in dialogue respectfully and without rancour. One of the things that makes our country strongest is our ability to look to the national interest and engage constructively, without acrimony or animosity.
As Senator Molan's family said, he was many things: a soldier, a pilot, an author, a volunteer firefighter and a senator. These roles, and the many others Jim Molan took on in his lifetime, speak to his ability, his capacity and his enthusiasm. Even through his illness, Senator Molan continued to be a strong advocate for Australia's defence and national security and a dedicated servant of the people of New South Wales in this parliament.
Senator Birmingham spoke in his contribution about the importance of living life with gratitude. It is true that, in gratitude, we find a way to contentment, to peace and to wisdom. Australia owes a debt of gratitude to Jim Molan for his dedicated service to our country in our defence force, through public policy and in our parliament.
But, of course, he was much more than this. Senator Molan was a husband, a father, a grandfather a brother, a friend and a colleague. He often spoke of his love for his family. His devotion was clear to all who knew him. So I close by expressing again my personal sympathies and the sympathies of the government to his wife, Anne, their four children, their grandchildren and other members of his family, as well as Jim's loyal staff, friends, colleagues and all he served with. I salute Jim Molan.
It's with a heavy heart that I rise today to join my colleagues on reflecting on the life and service to our nation of Senator Jim Molan. Rarely we speak in this chamber on days such as this of colleagues that we've served with and that each and every one of us have known. So it is with a particularly heavy heart that I rise and associate the National Party's comments with those of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and particularly with those of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Birmingham. Senator Jim Molan was a devoted husband to wife Anne, brother, father, grandfather and mate, as we heard at his funeral. On behalf of the Nats, I convey our deepest condolences to Jim's family and friends. He was a giant, a warrior taken too soon, and, as Senator Birmingham said and as others have made reference to since his passing, a true patriot.
He was also a great friend to rural and regional Australia. He understood regional issues, and he was not afraid to get out and across our regions, particularly in his beloved home state of New South Wales. Despite some tensions early in his parliamentary career, Jim was a great friend to the Nationals team and regularly attended our events and worked collegiately. As a former minister for both emergency management and agriculture, I can also attest to Jim's strong advocacy in those particular policy areas. We would often speak about the needs and interests of rural and regional Australia and the recovery from the bushfires in New South Wales.
Many have already attempted to describe Jim's passion, character and contribution to our society and this nation, but if I could use just one word that encapsulates all these it would 'patriot'. He met everybody with a really warm, open smile and an engaging and open spirit. Often when we come into the Senate we don't display that openness when we are actually tasked with representing all of the spectrum of ideas that exist across our nation, but Jim was prepared to listen, to learn, to engage deeply and then to respond respectfully. He had a profound sense of duty to his family, the Defence Force and his nation. He served his community constantly, working with charities and the rural fire service, serving in our country's parliament and in the Australian Army.
He joined the Australian Army as an officer cadet in 1968. For the political nerds amongst us, that was also the same year that Black Jack McEwen was Prime Minister for a couple of weeks. We in the National Party wished that that had been a little longer, but McMahon had other ideas. It was a time that many in this country would not remember or know, but I think it's important to reflect that Australia was engaged in the Vietnam War at that time, more than 100 Australians had already lost their lives in a conflict far away and 1968 became the deadliest year of that conflict. It was in this context that a young Jim Molan couldn't wait to sign up and serve.
A distinguished career followed over the next 40 years, including posts in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor and Iraq. He served as platoon commander in the 1st Battalion Pacific Island Regiment, adjutant in the 9th Battalion Royal Queensland Regiment, rifle company commander in the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, commanding officer of the 6th Battalion RAR, commander of the Army's mechanised 1st Brigade, commander of the 1st Division and its Joint Force Headquarters, commander of the Australian Defence College, Army attache in Jakarta between 1992 and 1994 and defence attache between 1998 and 1999, during the East Timor independence crisis.
His time in Indonesia was recognised in 1995 when he received a decoration of merit from the Indonesian Armed Forces and again in 2000 when he became an officer of the Order of Australia for service in East Timor. In 2004 his military experience and strategic expertise led him to be deployed again. He served at the Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraqi as deputy chief of staff of operations. This was at the height of operations, overseeing continuous and intense combat operations. His leadership and strategic advice were recognised in that theatre of operations and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit by the United States government. After returning from Iraq, Jim served as an advisor to the Vice Chief of the Defence Force on joint warfare and lessons and concepts. He finally retired at the rank of major general in 2008.
I mention these roles, services and awards because they go to the depth of knowledge and understanding he had of Australia's defence capability and strategy. When Jim spoke on defence matters, people listened. He wrote not one but three books on the subject and was a thought leader of his time.
In 2013 when the former Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government had exposed Australia to the threat of porous borders and people smuggling it was Jim who was called to help. Soon after the coalition swept to power in 2013, he was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott as special envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders, co-authoring the strategy to stop the boats and create a sophisticated Defence and Border Force intervention in a complex region. His deep understanding of the Indo-Pacific, military tactics and defence strategy was key in ending human trafficking and people smuggling and ensuring Australia's northern border was secure. Despite what some may say and continue to say about Operation Sovereign Borders, not only was it a success but it continues as a bipartisan government policy to this day and is being seen internationally as a policy worth implementing.
Following this success, it came as no surprise to many when he was elected by the Liberal Party to join us in this place in 2018, boosting the coalition's expertise on defence and security. Albeit a comparatively brief time in this place, it was incredibly well spent. He didn't waste a minute here. Despite his towering physical presence, he never looked rushed at all, despite being urgent in his advocacy at every single moment. It's actually a unique gift in this place.
He was quick to employ the oversight mechanisms contained in the standing orders and served on many committees scrutinising Australia's defence readiness and forward strategy. For those who are reading this at some future date, he was part of the government whilst also scrutinising the strategy and the spending in that space, so he was very much a senator's senator in that regard. We were very fortunate to have had his knowledge, expertise and passion.
He was a vocal advocate for improving Australia's defence capability and strategic response. No-one was more ardent than he in his avocation for greater transparency in Australia's national future defence strategy. In his last opinion piece for the Australian in November he said:
A more open, frank dialogue is required between Australia's government and its people about the challenges that lie ahead.
War is now more likely than at any point in the past 80 years, but our next conflict won't involve a few thousand troops on far away shores. It will occur on our doorstep—
impacting the entire nation—
And if government is hoping that when this happens, it can rely on Australians to fight in our defence or at the very least pay the bills, now is the time to start a very candid discussion.
And the late Jim Molan was right. The invasion of Ukraine cannot be seen as an isolated act; nor can we be ignorant to the coercive powers of nations seeking to exploit others, or the growing complexity in our own region.
We've faced some serious challenges as a nation over the past three years and we've seen how quickly international settings can change. From viruses to the downfall of political regimes to regional conflict, our world has changed rapidly. It's reminded us all that, whilst the efforts of the peaceful continue to outweigh the efforts of the malevolent few, conflict in this world is inevitable, and as a nation we must meet the task of constant vigilance. There is much we can do to delay conflict, but we must always be prepared to meet it and we must always be stronger in that moment than we were before for the decisions we have all made in this place. Senator Jim Molan knew this and, like a young Churchill, warned of the dangers of being ill-prepared. He sought to ensure Australia was ready for whatever came next. His contributions to this debate, I hope, will be heeded, and they will be sorely missed over time. But I'm confident his legacy will live on.
Jim met his last battle with typical, resolute determination and an incredibly positive spirit, and he's an example to us all when we face adversity. Sympathy and condolences to Anne and his four children, his grandchildren and wider family and friends. Vale Jim Molan.
I, too, rise to pay my respects to our colleague Senator Jim Molan. In commencing my comments today I do just want to acknowledge Jim's family, and in particular those members who have been able to join us in the gallery today.
In life generally Jim had so many rich experiences. There are almost too many to actually talk about. We are going to hear so many of them today, and at his funeral in particular—or at the celebration of his life, should I say—we're all able to be privileged to hear the presentation of his military record. But when you look at what was the one rich experience in life that Jim treasured more than anything—and it was one that he was so happy to talk about at any time, on any day—that was, of course, his family. That was the richest experience in Jim's life, despite serving us at the highest levels, whether that be in the armed forces or the Australian Senate. His family was the richest experience in his life.
Colleagues will recall that when Jim walked into the final coalition Senate party room—and it was unexpected to have Jim join us that day—he received resounding applause. We were just all so honoured, but so happy, to have Jim join us for that final Senate party room meeting. All of us knew he had had a battle on his hands. That was something that was on the public record. But I don't think any of us knew that we would be farewelling him so soon. We had certainly hoped not, and many of us had prayed not. The rousing applause, though, wasn't just for a man who was fighting a very brave battle with cancer. It was for so much more. It was for the man that we, as his colleagues, had come to know, respect and love.
It goes without saying that Jim was a giant of a man, and, since his passing, so many members of the Liberal Party in particular have said to me, 'Michaelia, what is the one thing you personally remember about Jim Molan?' I think, as Senator McKenzie has just articulated, that the one thing I will always remember about our colleague Jim Molan is his smile. Whenever Jim walked into a room, it did not matter what the day was, what the time was, what the issue was, what the challenge was—it didn't matter what the battle was that he was personally fighting—he was always smiling. And when you saw Jim smile you knew, 'Oh, everything's is actually going to be alright.'
He was, without a doubt, a true patriot and dedicated servant of this nation, and, of course, that wasn't just through the period of time in this place but throughout his career and life. But he was, as we have heard, so much more as well. He was, without a doubt, a gentleman—a decent and honourable man. And, as I've said, and as we are going to hear continually today, he was a committed family man, dedicated to his wife, Anne, children and grandchildren.
Jim's service to the nation began at a very young age. Jim was born into a military family, the son of World War II veteran Andrew and his wife, Noni. Jim grew up in Melbourne and dreamed of one day entering the military. At the age of 18 he was accepted into the Royal Military College, Duntroon. His distinguished career started with his first posting to the 1st Battalion, Pacific Islands Regiment in Papua New Guinea. He spent more than three years there as the regiment worked to help PNG move towards independence and democracy in 1975. As we have all heard, early in his stint in PNG he returned to Australia to marry Anne Williams, whom he had met whilst at Duntroon, and this was to form a life partnership.
Following the PNG posting, Jim spent time serving in the 9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment and in the 3rd and 6th Battalions, Royal Australian Regiment. In 1992, as a colonel, Jim was posted to Jakarta as the Australian Defence Force attache, where he served until 1994. In 1998, as a brigadier, he returned as defence attache for a further two years, witnessing Indonesia's chaos following the fall of the President Suharto, the Asian financial crisis and East Timor's vote for independence. He joined the Australian Army deployment in East Timor in 1999 and later became commander of the Australian Defence College.
It doesn't stop there, though. Jim was posted to Baghdad in 2004 as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for the new multinational force. He effectively commanded a force of 270,000, including more than 130,000 Americans, the rest drawn from Iraq and dozens of coalition nations. In Iraq, Jim led the creation of new mechanisms to coordinate and improve the security of vital infrastructure, monitoring overall security repair, ministerial liaison, contracting and command. He was in command during the battles of Fallujah, Najaf, Tal Afar, Samawah and Mosul. Jim survived an anti-aircraft gun attack on a Blackhawk helicopter; it was one of at least 15 attacks that he survived, including from rocket propelled grenades and mortars.
The Iraqi elections scheduled for January 2005 represented a huge challenge. In the seven days before the Iraqi election in January 2005, coalition and Iraqi security forces were attacked around 800 times, and 260 times on election day. On the night before the election a rocket hit a room next to Jim's room, killing two Americans. It failed to detonate, probably saving Jim's life.
Jim was a highly decorated soldier during his military career. He was awarded the Australian Active Service Medal, Defence Force Service Medal (Federation Star), the Australian Defence Medal, the Papua New Guinea Independence Medal, the Order of the Star of Yudha Dharma 3rd Class (Indonesia), Officer of the Legion of Merit (United States) and the Distinguished Service Cross. Of that, I know his family is so very proud. He was also appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 1992 and Officer of the Order of Australia in 2000.
From the moment Jim stepped into the Senate chamber in 2017, he showed wisdom, integrity, commitment, resilience and perseverance. As we have heard, Jim's extensive and highly decorated military career meant he brought strong views into this place about Australia's place in the world, our defence capabilities and our future requirements. His military experience and security knowledge meant he was an invaluable member on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, as well as the one for migration. Jim was, without a doubt, a conviction politician. But, at the same time, despite being a conviction politician, he was someone—and we learnt this so well—who would listen to all sides of an argument before deciding his position. But once Jim had decided a position he then fiercely held and defended it.
He was a great believer in the Liberal values and worked hard within the party to build grassroots membership and also to mentor young Liberals. He was in fact also a mentor for many in this place. Someone with so many years of experience outside of politics always has a great perspective to bring into the Senate. Jim was also a sought-after commentator, for obvious reasons, particularly on national security and defence matters. Outside of this place though, he had a great love of flying and held both fixed-wing and helicopter pilot licences. He also served his community as part of the rural fire brigade.
But, as I stated at the beginning, Jim's greatest love of all was his family, and he celebrated 50 years of marriage to Anne in April of last year. It is never easy losing a life partner, but, after 50 years together, I can't even begin to imagine what that is like. In fact, so many said to me during my time of knowing Jim that it's not often in life that you meet two people and can actually just feel they are soulmates; they have come together in this life. That is something that people often said about Jim and Anne—they are true soulmates. Jim and Anne's marriage of course produced four wonderful children, and my condolences go to daughters Sarah, Erin and Felicity, and son, Michael, as well as his beautiful grandchildren, who, as we all know, he just adored. We saw at Jim's funeral what a wonderful and close tight-knit family you are and how your strong bond will help see you through this. We are going to hear so often today just how proud Jim was of his family and, without a doubt, he was not shy in telling us that. There will always be a family within this place who will always be here for you all, ready to support and help you in any way we can.
Finally, to Jim himself: thank you, Jim, for your great service to this nation over many years. There are very few like you in this nation's history, but we should all hope that there will be more like you in our future. A finer example could not have been set. Rest in peace, Jim Molan.
I appreciate the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this condolence motion honouring the life and service of Senator Jim Molan. I'd like to begin by acknowledging his family, friends and colleagues, who are feeling his loss so deeply. In the loss of Senator Molan we have lost a truly national figure, a national leader and, for me, as a senator for the ACT, a much-loved local from this Canberra region.
At Senator Molan's memorial service I learnt a lot more about the man who I served alongside in this place; a man who had dedicated his entire career to public service in the Defence Force, in the parliament, in the community and in the Liberal Party. He wore many hats, and at that funeral service I was also struck by what an interesting and exciting life he had led and how he was at so many pivotal moments in Australia's national history and, in fact, in global history.
Some have described Jim, even here today, as a giant of a man, and when we use that to describe Jim, it's never just meant referring to his physical presence. If Jim was in the room, you certainly knew about it, not just because you couldn't miss him, because he was often taller than everybody else in the room, but also because of his energy in that room. People have spoken of the smile and, I think at the funeral service, about the hand that reached out and said, 'Hello. Jim Molan,' with a big smile, and I certainly remember that and could relate to that as well.
But it wasn't just his energy; it was also his interest in whatever was going on. I think people who are interested in others have an underrated—or often unrecognised—quality. It showed the true character of a person with an open mind, prepared to learn, wanting to learn and also wanting to know other people who he worked with. That's something that I will always remember about Jim.
A couple of other things. I think, in this place, people often see publicly the arguments, the fights, the divisions. What they don't often reflect on is the amount of time we spend together getting to know each other. Even though our politics might be different, we in this chamber, with the small nature of it and the small number of us, get to spend time with each other even if it is only during those five-minute divisions that seem to go on and on some days. We spend time with each other. We get to know each other. And, again, others have spoken today about Senator Molan's deep love of his family. That was something that stood out for me. Often when we would sit together during a division, we would turn to talk about our families and what was going on, and you could not mistake the deep love he had for Anne and his children and in the stories of his grandchildren. And so, when people see us sometimes sitting side by side and laughing in this place, that's often what we are talking about. Again, it's not often a recognised part of this job.
The other thing I remember is always going out and being on the booths in Queanbeyan. I think every time I would go out there Jim Molan would be on the same booth. I would think: 'How could this possibly be? There are so many booths, and every one I turn up to, Jim is there on the stump, getting in the way of me trying to lobby voters!' Again, I think it was his energy and the fact that, once he committed to something, he was there in the work that he did. That's, again, a reason I will remember Jim forever: the fact that we did do some of that campaigning together in Queanbeyan, vying for the same voters often.
One of the final things I wanted to say is from Senator Birmingham and Senator Wong speaking about gratitude. Again, that is something that stands out to me in my dealings with Jim. I remember, after he was diagnosed with cancer and he'd gone through his first round of treatment, he reached out to me to express his gratitude for the services of the ACT health system. I thought that was a particularly generous thing to do, when he was going through his own illness and dealing with that and the consequences of that, that he took time to reach out to me to acknowledge the Canberra Region Cancer Centre, the staff at Canberra Hospital and others who had provided him with treatment. Again, that talks to the man that we all knew.
Since his passing, Senator Molan has been remembered as a loyal servant to the people of his community, the people of New South Wales, and our country more broadly, and today the Senate honours his service. Senator Molan dedicated his life to serving our nation through his many roles, in which he always served with distinction. I hope that this condolence motion today in the Senate offers his family some comfort, that the respect in which he was held offers some comfort as they mourn a life taken too soon.
In the 10 years that I've been in this place I've had the privilege of meeting many very interesting and dedicated people, but at the very top of that list is Jim Molan. So it's with both sadness and deep respect that I stand today in this chamber to speak to the condolence motion on the passing of Senator Andrew James (Jim) Molan AO, DSC.
Jim was a great friend, a great colleague and a great Australian. He was a true patriot, and he served his country in so many ways, whether it was through his 40 years of dedicated service, as a major general in the military, to the security and safety of this country or as the architect of Operation Sovereign Borders, where his actions saved the lives of undoubtedly many thousands of people who otherwise would have drowned at sea, or as a senator for New South Wales in this place since 2017, off and on.
On reflecting on his time as a senator, I'd describe Jim as a consistent conservative—consistent because you always knew that the position Jim would take on policies and politics was consistent with his values. He never took the easy path; he never took the convenient path. His positions were always authentic and his delivery was always one of unwavering dignity and total sincerity.
As a friend, he was thoughtful and he was generous with his time. On a personal note, that generosity was never more clear than two years ago when my 90-year-old mother came to the parliament. Mum was delighted to meet the Prime Minister. She met many cabinet ministers. She was delighted to be called out in this chamber by Senator Birmingham for being here and being my mum. She was delighted to meet Brendan Murphy, who was at the time the Chief Medical Officer, in charge of our response to the COVID pandemic. But her most cherished moment was when Jim chased her down and said g'day.
I've got to say that, as an avid Sky watcher, my mother has never, ever missed a Jim Molan performance on Sky since that day. One of her most treasured possessions is the signed copy of his book Danger on Our Doorstep, which he sent to mum with a lovely personal message. It meant so much to her, and she now regales anybody who will listen to her with her new-found knowledge of international strategic politics and China. It's gestures like this that, I think, speak to the character of the man—the fact that he was always thinking about other people, and the generosity with which he delivered that message. I'm not sure whether this is being broadcast today—possibly it's not—but I can assure you that if it were my mum would be sitting in front of the television right now listening to every single contribution. And, Erin, I think my mum has actually transferred her media loyalty to you!
Jim leaves behind an enormous legacy in the people he touched, the beautiful family who were devoted to him, the service that he gave to his country and the commitment he gave to every single person he came in touch with. My sincere condolences to you, Anne, and to Sarah, Erin, Felicity and Michael. I feel immensely honoured to have had the privilege of knowing your husband and your father. Vale, Jim Molan.
I too rise to make a contribution on this condolence motion for Senator Jim Molan. I am a former Defence Force member myself, but Senator Molan—Jim—was a full-time officer. He was dedicated for many, many years. I was a part-time Army reservist and a non-commissioned officer. However, you couldn't have been in the Defence Force at the time without having heard of Jim Molan and having the utmost respect for the rank, the experience and the dedication that he had.
I don't want to focus on Jim's military service, as monumental as it was. I had the joy of being the person whose name appeared above his name on the 2019 Senate ticket. As my colleague Senator McKenzie said earlier, despite the way Jim first came into the parliament and our relationship with the Nationals, we are firm friends. We always have been firm friends.
Jim first came into this chamber on a constitutional countback, replacing my colleague former senator Fiona Nash, which, I'll be honest, did rankle a few Nats, who were saying, 'Why have we got a Liberal taking what we saw as our seat?' But it was a constitutional countback. It was all above board, and Jim, through no fault of his own, came into this place and served with honour. Then, in 2019, through no fault of mine, his name appeared below mine on our coalition Senate ticket, leading to what was—as Senator Wong mentioned—probably the largest below-the-line vote we've ever seen in a Senate election. He got three per cent of the vote, which was awesome.
I need to personally thank him because that huge vote made a significant contribution to ensuring that the coalition got three senators up in that election, and I was one of them. So I'm very, very grateful to Jim, but I'm also grateful that he didn't give up, and I'm grateful that the Liberal Party saw fit to put him in, in November that very same year, to replace the casual vacancy when Senator Arthur Sinodinos retired to take an overseas position.
I didn't know what to expect when Jim came into this place while I was here, but what I met was an absolute consummate gentleman. He was such a beautiful and genuine man with such—we've talked about his smile—a smile that was absolutely infectious and contagious. He was a true optimist and also a team player. When I finally got to meet him and we had a little bit of a joke about him trying to beat me in the election, he grinned and said, 'You know it wasn't personal, mate?' and we became firm friends ever since.
Because Jim was also a regional senator for New South Wales, we shared some duty electorates and we crossed over in our representation of regional areas, so I also want to extend a massive thank you to Jim's staff who were always so professional, so accessible and so loyal. It shows what sort of a man Jim was himself to have that level of loyalty and commitment from his staff.
Even when Jim first fell ill, an outsider looking in would not have known it, because Jim stayed engaged. He kept penning articles and op-eds, and his staff remained engaged. They never stopped working for their constituency, for the people of New South Wales and for the people of Australia. So I really want to thank the staff. My staff certainly appreciated the level of connections that we had.
The last time I saw Jim was late last year when he came to our joint party room and also when the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, asked for all former service personnel to attend and have a photo together. I really appreciated being able to see Jim. He did not, for one second, give off the trials that he was personally going through. He still stood as tall as he ever stood. He still smiled as broadly as he ever smiled. He didn't dwell on what he was going through. He asked things like: How are you doing? How's life in the Senate? Are we keeping them honest? Like Jim, I had really hoped that he would again go into remission. I had really hoped that he would again be here with us, doing his job and doing what you could tell he found very rewarding and that kept him busy and occupied, but it wasn't to be.
So I send my condolences to Anne and to his family. I am so grateful that you allowed Jim the time to spend in this place with us, and I'm sure I join all my colleagues in sending you our condolences. I'm sure he's at peace, and he will not be forgotten.
I, too, appreciate the opportunity to rise and speak on the occasion of the death of Andrew James Molan, our respected colleague that we all knew as 'Jim'. Compared to the other place over there, the Senate is quite a small place and, as others have observed this morning, it's a place characterised as much by collaboration as by conflict, notwithstanding the perceptions that people in public may have about how we work together. Here we work together, we get to know people and we get to understand them.
I served briefly with Jim on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, but I served with him for a much longer period on the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, where I was the chair and Jim was the deputy chair. Jim and I, of course, did not agree on everything or, indeed, many things. We came from very different political traditions. But, in grappling with the challenges presented by new digital technologies, we found common cause. These are complex issues and they sit at the intersection of technology, security, community and our democratic institutions. They're not simple and they don't lend themselves to simple solutions. Jim, in our committee work together, really leaned into that complexity. As others have observed, he was not shy in questioning government officials, officials representing his own government, because he was determined to get to the bottom of it, because he recognised the significance to our public life of the issue that we were examining. We were aligned, I think, in understanding that our democratic institutions are in fact core pillars of our national security framework. It was through that frame that Jim approached the work of the committee.
He was often not well during the period of that committee's work. It meant that we had to speak about how we would manage the work of the committee, but he was absolutely determined that the committee's work would go on, and he would make himself available whenever I needed him so that the work of the committee could continue. He was entirely dedicated to the work of the Senate and the job that the Senate had tasked us to do together. I was really pleased that we were able to deliver an interim report, with jointly sponsored recommendations, and of course later, when he was in a position to do so, Jim added some of his own personal reflections as additional comments at the back end of that report, which, again, demonstrated his deep engagement with the material that had been put before us.
Perhaps more particularly for today I'll say the daily experience of working with Jim was an absolute pleasure, of course. He was courteous, he was reasonable, he was generous and, perhaps most importantly, he understood the value of candid, serious, private discussions between colleagues. Jim and I of course reserved the right to vigorously disagree, and he was quite cross with me about some of the approaches that I took on climate change based on his position on climate change. But he understood that there was deep value in collaboration. He knew that personal relationships were the bedrock of such collaboration here. I always knew that I could go to Jim with a personal or confidential disclosure and that he would respect that.
This will be a time of enormous sadness for Jim's staff. He respected them and they respected him enormously. They were enormously fond of him. I offer my condolences to all of the people who worked with him. We also, of course, spoke frequently of our families in those quiet moments when we can quietly share a little bit of pride about the progress through the world of the people we love the most. To Anne, his four children, his five grandchildren, his extended family and all the people who loved him, I offer my condolences. Vale, Jim.
nator McDONALD () (): I start by quoting one my favourite poets, Khalil Gibran:
God made the world with a heart full of love,
Then He looked down from Heaven above,
And saw that we all need a helping hand,
Someone to share with, who'll understand.
He made special people to see us through
The glad times and the sad times, too;
A person on whom we can always depend,
Someone we can call a friend.
God made friends so we'll carry a part
Of His perfect love in all our hearts.
It struck me, reading that the other day, what a perfect reflection that was of Jim. I did not have the opportunity to get to know him as well as so many people, because I more recently came into the Senate, in the gap while Jim was out. Much has been said of his extraordinary career with the Army—just an outstanding example of service. And it is a tragedy that often we get to know more about a person through attending their funeral and hearing people speak of them. It did strike me, though, what an incredibly practical person he must have been as a leader, too, ensuring that his troops could walk 80 kilometres in 24 hours with a 30-kilometre self-sufficient pack. It must have been an inspiring leadership to have men and women follow him.
I also reflected on his retirement, which was brief—just from the Army, not from his service to the community and his service in the rural fire brigade, and I can only imagine the air-firefighting service just grabbing hold of his leadership and understanding of both the aviation and the practical element of physical defence of our land.
His 'below the line' campaign was extraordinary, and I can assure you that, while North Queensland couldn't vote for New South Wales senators, they were very, very keen to. I had to explain to lots of people that, whilst they were passionate about seeing Jim Molan elected to the Senate, unfortunately from Queensland we couldn't help in that regard. But it was an extraordinary performance—extraordinary—and just a real sign of his personal leadership that he was able to attract so many people to vote for him.
I think some of the things that have marked Jim's time in the Senate were his incredible patriotism and his ability to convey to people that that was okay. At a time when we have young people not sure if it's okay to celebrate Australia Day, that the Australian flag isn't something that some people feel that they can muster around, Jim was able to let people know that patriotism is something that you can be incredibly proud of and embrace, and he lived that.
He was an inspiration in the Senate because he had this incredible capacity, as has already been commented on, to never seem rushed, to always feel considered—that he always had time to speak to you. He shared stories with me of his time in the Army that were just fantastic and a reflection of his views on the practical nature of leadership and the way the Army works, both then and now, and of course some very funny observations—but I won't share those here.
He was a man of such strong and clearly defined morals. I will always remember a day when we were preparing for the chamber, and there was a discussion about somebody, and there was a view put that this person had no choice but to follow their heart—that this was outside of their control. His comments were short and very sharp and to the point: 'Your morals and your decisions are always your own.' I thought that was a view that we do not hear enough. I was taken aback and also incredibly pleased to hear his incredibly strong moral standard.
He was a man you would go to war with, quite literally, but he epitomised a sense of respect for people—not forced, not manufactured, not around any particular values. I just think he liked people. He respected them. That sense of compassion and acknowledgement of humans, I really valued. He had an incredible sense of good humour. It's not always reflected in here. Sometimes people can be short and take their team's view very strongly, but Jim always managed to find his sense of humour and a sense of gratitude.
At the end of it all, character is what marks our lives, and Jim was a man of incredible character, a man of integrity, courage, morals and conviction. Of course, that gift of gratitude is something I have reflected on a lot since the service a couple of weeks ago. I hope I can carry that on. I thought that was a beautiful way to think about your life, a daily way. He was a man to be admired as an Australian, as a senator, but, most importantly, as a family man.
We share your loss and today we hope, in some way, to share a little of the pain, the burden, that you carry. I hope that, in time, the wonderful memories of Jim as a man will replace that sense of pain. My condolences to you, his family, to his friends and, importantly, to his staff. I say vale to a life incredibly well lived, to Jim Molan.
It is an immense honour and privilege to be able to make a contribution, to commemorate the life and, indeed, contribution that our friend and colleague Jim Molan made in his time on this earth.
We've heard it through the contributions of colleagues here today, the extensive reflections that were in the media after his passing, those beautiful testimonials of his beloved family and his friends at the celebration of his life, and, importantly, the recitation of that immense record of service at the end of the ceremony last week—highly decorated and something to behold, truly.
All of these things paint a picture of a man who was amazing, in every respect, and one that I can say on behalf of my colleagues, I know, who had a great privilege in serving with him, and we are grateful for that. For those who had the privilege to work with Jim, we can see proof of everything that was written about him, from his time in the Defence Force, in authoring Operation Sovereign Borders, to his role as a father and husband. All of those things came home to us when we were able to work with him, be it on Senate committees or here in this chamber. It was clear to us that he was a decent and honourable man—two words that are sometimes hard to apply to people we know, but certainly in the case of Jim we could do that. He was a man also of conviction and very much of compassion.
Jim's credentials have all been very well-established through the things we've heard and read: as a leader in our Defence Force, as I've said before, as the author of the successful border protection policy we've talked about here, as an authority on national security, but also as a father and husband and an active member of his community.
My dealings with Jim, though, were around him being a strong and active advocate for his community, particularly when it came to matters forestry. It's sometimes said though in this place, and I think very unfairly, that senators can be seen as out of touch with their community. Now I think all of us here would agree that is not the case. Certainly, in the case with Jim, he was very much in touch, especially when it came to matters that impacted the regional communities he represented across the state of New South Wales and, in particular, on this very important industry, forestry. It's when I worked with him on matters forestry that I saw all of these things that people have been talking about, on this niche issue, an important one. But all of those characteristics that have been used here to describe Jim and his passion, his commitment, came to the surface and were on full display.
After the disastrous Black Summer bushfires, Jim put his full force into doing his best to help a community suffering the impact of bushfires. I remember he invited me down to his patch, to come and have a look at the damage of the bushfires—quite extensive—particularly when it came to forestry but also to other parts of the economy. Indeed, all of the communities that were affected suffered greatly.
But one meeting that we went to stands out to me in my memory. As has been talked about quite extensively here—and I didn't realise that that would be the case—I recall Jim was always known to be smiling, exhibiting this warmth and putting people at ease. He was very much smiling the day of this meeting. We arrived at this meeting of farmers in the community of Lower Bago. As the meeting started, it dawned on me why Jim was smiling so much. At the time I thought, 'Well, he's happy to be spending the day with me!' But, as the meeting got underway, it was in fact because these less-than-happy farmers had discovered they had fresh blood. For once in his life he was able to probably watch on as someone else took the hits. In all seriousness, though, at that meeting, these farmers who had felt abandoned by successive state and federal governments and by other industries that had become a greater priority to government—he was able to give them voice. He was able to seek ways to resolve the problems they were facing.
That visit demonstrated to me, and in particular that meeting demonstrated to me, something Senator Birmingham talked about before—that relentlessness, the commitment and the consistency that Jim applied to clearly every element of what he did. Despite the difficult nature of that meeting, which did get a little heated—I don't think I left with many friends that day, apart from Jim—it was clear that Jim was intent on ensuring that those farmers, like the rest of his community that he served every day in this place, the people he fought for, got the answers they deserved and the solutions and support they needed. And, while Jim was allocating so much energy to significant matters like national security and our nation's defences, no matter was too small or too trivial. Indeed, again in the area of forestry, it was Jim's hard work that spearheaded the securing of funding for the Eden forestry hub, something that will secure the future of that industry for years to come and the hundreds of jobs that depend on that industry in small communities that don't often get talked about here in Canberra but rely on us for leadership and for our backing. Jim did his bit. He was relentless in his phone calls until he was able to make an announcement with funding, and he secured it for them. He has an amazing legacy, and that is just a small part of it.
Jim was also a generous man, and much has been said of the below-the-line campaign. I recall there was a time when an article surfaced in the Tasmanian media about me, perhaps, finding myself in the third spot on the Tasmanian Liberal ticket. And Jim, with that smile we mentioned before, pulled me aside in the corridor just outside our offices and said: 'Johnno, I've been in this situation before. Perhaps you and I should have a cup of coffee, and I can give you a few pointers.' Thankfully, I didn't have to draw on his knowledge and experience, but it is one great regret, because I would have loved to know how Jim Molan managed to secure the number of votes that he did, in the way that he did, in that campaign. That's one regret, as I say, I will always have.
Listening to Jim's first speech back in February 2018, it was his reference to Psalm 144 and his view about the Judeo-Christian culture that we have in this country that struck me most—how it has made Australia the country it is in terms of facing adversity and challenges. Jim's attitude towards challenge and adversity was something to behold and something that many of us in this place wish we could replicate. It was something that clearly set him apart from so many. We're grateful to Jim for his service. We're grateful particularly to his family for sharing him with us, and I offer my condolences to his family and his team, who are here today. Vale, Jim Molan.
I too wish to rise and express my condolences to the family. I was deeply saddened the day I heard the news that Senator Molan had passed. It's interesting working in the Senate, and one of the things that I do love about working in the Senate is the opportunity to get to know people from all walks of life, with different viewpoints, with opposing views and with agreeable views but always with respect. I certainly found that with Senator Molan. I was with quite a few people with the Defence Force in the Northern Territory at the time we received the news. I would like to put on the record that the Defence personnel of the Northern Territory are with you as well in your grief.
He touched the lives of many people. I certainly did not know Senator Molan before he joined the Senate, but I was very aware of the work that he did. I would like to, if I may, Anne, read to you and to your children, Michael Felicity, Erin and Sarah, some of the words from a retired sergeant from the Northern Territory. This is a message from Robert Richards:
'My recollections of Jim Molan were from his time as the Commander of 1st Brigade at Robertson Barracks in Darwin. When there was an opportunity to talk with him, usually at a brigade function, no matter what rank you were, from the command teams of the units of the brigade to the lower level of the food chain, he would take the time to listen to what you had to say and then, after a few moments of consideration, would respond to your comments and correct you when you were wrong and/or out of your lane but also would agree with some of the things you had said if they had some merit.
He was truly a great man and understood the needs of the soldiers under his command. It was a great honour to have worked under him in the 1st Brigade and to have been given the opportunity to talk with him on a few occasions.
He will be very sorely missed not only by his family but by Australia as a whole, due to his love and care for the family and the country. May he rest in peace.
My warmest regards,
Robert Richards, Sergeant retired.'
I would also point out my time with Senator Molan. That was through the stillbirth inquiry that I chaired in 2017-18. It was through that time that I had the chance to really get to know him as we travelled across the states and territories, listening to families tell their stories and asking for assistance about how our policies at a federal level could assist all families going forward.
At the time when I delivered the report here in the Senate, I brought the report in on a coolamon. Under our way—certainly for the Yanyuwa Garrwa—we used the coolamon to carry our babies, to carry water, to carry life. Bringing an empty coolamon in was symbolic for all of those families across Australia who had lost a baby, and for all those families who had the courage to speak to us. Erin, your dad was just so beautiful throughout that whole process. If I may, I'd just like to read his response to the report here in the Senate. I know it was a difficult time. I'd just like to read a couple of paragraphs from his speech here:
Today I stand in this place as a former soldier not unfamiliar with death and violence, as a senator for New South Wales who has devoted much of my time to national security and as an ordinary Australian returning to the workplace after a five-month period of medical treatment in which the magnificent healthcare professionals and health services of this nation essentially saved my life. For the good wishes I received from you, my colleagues, I thank you most sincerely. However, I am absolutely incapable of thinking of any sentiment more important to me today, or of any commemoration more significant, than to mourn the cherished children whose loss through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death is suffered each year by thousands of Australian families.
I was honoured to be a member of the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education, which, in 2018, examined in great detail the significant and far-reaching impacts of stillbirth in Australia. I welcome the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan, published in December last year and developed under the oversight of the National Stillbirth Project Reference Group—again, established by the then Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council.
I think, most poignantly, Senator Molan's heartfelt comments were for his daughter and granddaughter:
On Wednesday last week, my stillborn granddaughter Emily Charlotte Sutton would have turned 14, but instead we commemorated the 14th anniversary of her shattering death. On Friday last week, her mother—my daughter Sarah—turned 40, a milestone birthday. It wasn't celebrated with family and friends, but only because of COVID health orders in all states.
That was from a speech on 18 October 2021, when we remembered the International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I'd like to say to the Molan family that it is because of Senator Molan's work with me on the stillbirth inquiry that I felt I had the pleasure of getting to really know him. My heartfelt condolences go out to you all and to his staff. Bauji barra.
I rise to add my voice to the chamber's condolence for our colleague and friend Jim Molan and to extend my sympathies to his family, friends and to the many, many people who loved and admired him. Jim Molan was very much a man who lived his values in the service of his country. I'm pleased to say that Jim was in fact born a Victorian, but somehow he was led astray and went over the border, ending up as a senator for New South Wales. In between that, Jim of course travelled the world in the service of those who needed help and in the service of his country. On entering this place he commented that he had been a lifelong believer in democracy, in both concept and in practice. Many of us here might be of the view that we are the same as Jim in this regard—we are not.
While we might stand in this place and deliver high-principled speeches or provide opinions on how others should follow the values that we represent, Jim walked a different path. In uniform, Jim departed Australia in the service of his country to try to ensure that people he had never met could provide for themselves a self-determined life of freedom and democracy. Over the decades and across Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor, the Solomons and Iraq, Jim went to serve. Australia couldn't hope for a better emissary than Jim Molan, a big man with an even bigger heart. He saw his role in these deployments and postings as an opportunity for Australia to walk with others on their own path to democracy and all the opportunities and the prosperity that it had given him.
At the end of a long and storied career, which included an Order of Australia, a Distinguished Service Cross and a Legion of Merit from the United States, Jim didn't stop serving. He decided that he would take his career of experience and apply it to public life, first through policy and finally through politics. I'm not entirely sure whether anyone had mentioned to him that there is no such thing as the 'Continuous Service Cross'! If politics is a vocation, it's fair to say that Jim got the call late, but, having been called, he didn't waste a moment. He didn't forget the lessons of his time in uniform, and he would march across his state and put into practice all the democratic values that he previously hoped for others and other countries with an outstretched hand and open mind, everywhere from country shows to committee hearings. He found that no amount of committee work was too great and no issue too small.
In particular I know he will be remembered for his work on the Senate Select Committee into Stillbirth Research and Education, which Senator McCarthy referred to, of which he was the deputy chair. This obviously was a matter that was so personal to him, having experienced the loss of a granddaughter in 2007, and, while Senator McCarthy has already read to the chamber some of his comments that day, I might add to that the part that most moved me. Senator Molan said:
The recommendations of this report will spare many Australian parents from the unimaginable grief of your baby going to the hospital mortuary instead of to the nursery, of making autopsy arrangements, of postnatal mothers being supported to walk through a cemetery to choose a plot for their baby, of a funeral with the smallest of white coffins being carried by a shell-shocked family member and of returning home to a house full of baby paraphernalia. That's just the blur of the first week or 10 days. Having found the strength to do all this, Sarah, Gavin, all our witnesses at this inquiry and every other traumatised, bereaved parent then has to find the strength to get out of bed and function each day for the rest of their lives.
That was a contribution that left not a dry eye in the chamber, and it was a reminder to us all that in this crazy job, which requires such a thick skin, vulnerability and an admission of it is a demonstration of strength and not weakness.
You've heard loud and clear that he was a much-loved colleague, and although he was a latecomer, he was very much adopted—indeed, embraced—by the class of 2016. Although he came with a somewhat intimidating reputation, he was just so likeable. He fit in immediately and was always the first to join his colleagues in that group and in its gatherings. Personally, I loved the fact that he would refer to me as 'one of the young members of the 2016 cohort'—not too many people refer to me as young these days, so I was very happy. As a matter of courtesy, I never corrected him on that.
Stop laughing, Senator Paterson! As we recall what Jim meant to his colleagues, I also acknowledge what Jim meant to his staff—his wonderful team—who reflected the values and behaviours of their boss. Their hard work, professionalism, admiration and loyalty was and is unquestionable.
As a soldier, Jim was witness to some of the worst of humanity's failings. He could have been forgiven if he had become hardened, or bitter, or angry or cynical, but it speaks volumes of the man that instead he was quite the opposite. He was courteous, he was generous, he was open-minded and, as we were reminded at that beautiful funeral, he was grateful. His funeral was a fitting tribute to a brave soldier, a selfless contributor and a good man. The litany of achievements, the stories of heroism and the yarns of friendship that flowed constantly and freely were food for the soul, but what most moved me was those photos. Oh, those photos! Over and over, through passing years, each in turn showed service to his nation and love of his family.
My thoughts go out to his family, of whom he spoke to us often—to Annie, Erin, Felicity, Sarah and Michael, and those beautiful grandchildren who were clearly so desperately loved. How lucky we all are to have shared our time on this earth with a man who did what we all want to do: to live a life that makes a difference. So, vale to our dear friend, Senator Jim Molan: a man whose trumpet never sounds retreat.
I rise to make a short contribution in tribute to my friend and our former colleague Senator Jim Molan. In doing so, I acknowledge his family, his friends and his former staff who are with us here today on what I know is another difficult day in the last couple of very difficult weeks in their lives. I associate myself with the very fine words of other senators who have spoken already in this debate, particularly those of Senator Birmingham and Senator Wong. It is a wonderful tribute to Jim as a person that he has been so warmly remembered by people from both sides of this chamber, and it is a reflection on the very fine way in which he conducted himself here.
I won't repeat his very distinguished CV and record of service, except to note what a rare and remarkable and amazing thing it is to have someone who has dedicated almost every single day of his life to the service of his nation—in uniform, in civil society organisations and, ultimately, here in in place. Jim lived a life for others and for his country, and that is a great act of selfless contribution to our country, for which we should be very grateful and for which he should be very warmly remembered. I hope his family is very proud, because it's an astonishing legacy and an example that he set for all of us.
Jim and I were collaborators in this place on issues of national security. We were both concerned about the strategic circumstances that our country finds itself in. The perspective, authority and credibility that Jim brought to those debates and public conversations were so important. He is in very large part to be credited for the very significant change in posture that Australia has adopted in the last five years to take much more seriously the threats that we face as a country and to see the world as it is rather than as we might prefer it to be—to accept the reality of the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
I've been reflecting over the last two weeks on the best tribute that we can pay to Jim and the best way in which we can honour his service, and I think it is by continuing his life's passion and life's work as best we can. We will be imperfect custodians of his legacy, because none of us can replicate his record of service and insight, but we can do our very best to carry on his progress and his mission.
I know Jim was gratified, grateful, proud and pleased of the progress that our country has made, particularly over the last five years, in readying ourselves for the period of conflict that we know is a possibility that will come in the future, but I know he was also dissatisfied that that progress wasn't far enough, swift enough and comprehensive enough. I know to his very last days he was agitating for more, faster, swifter and more comprehensive action to make sure our country is resilient and can navigate the tumultuous times that we suspect we will face in the decades to come.
Jim was absolutely right to view the national security challenges we face as a country holistically, to understand that it's not just about the capability or the kit that our defence forces are able to acquire but about our whole-of-nation resilience and readiness to survive a period of conflict. He was right to call out weaknesses, like our failure to ensure we have sufficient liquid fuel stocks here onshore in Australia. He was persistent in raising that and gained very significant and welcome progress, but I know in his view insufficient progress. That must be continued.
Jim had a very deep understanding that the prosperity, the harmony and the democracy that we enjoy here are historically rare and fragile, that there's nothing preordained or guaranteed about that being passed on to future generations—that there's no certainty of that—and that the only way that we can ensure that that happens is if we work assiduously at that task.
So I think it is important that we carry on his vision and that we heed the lessons particularly of his book Danger on Our Doorstep, which was really to wake us up out of the complacency that developed in some quarters in our country in recent decades and to get people to appreciate the very serious challenges that we face and the very dangerous circumstances that we live in, and to respond accordingly and with the necessary drive and action required to meet it.
I want to finish by reflecting, as others have, on Jim's personality. As many senators have noted, he was a warm, generous, funny and decent man. He was in many ways a happy warrior. He was a warrior for his cause and for the issues that he cared about, but he never allowed himself to be downcast, depressed or negative about it, even when he was battling very serious health challenges for many years. The fact that he was able to write a wonderful and important book, which I commend to all Australians, while receiving treatment for cancer is an extraordinary feat of personal resilience and strength that I think we can all draw inspiration from.
It was that sunny disposition and warm and friendly nature of his that I admired the most, despite the challenges he faced in his own life and despite the seriousness of the issues that he worked on. I hope that as senators we can honour that part of his legacy too and continue to conduct ourselves in a way that he would have hoped that we would—with decency, courtesy and politeness—while also tackling the very big challenges we face.
So I thank you, Jim. I thank you for the life of service that you have given to our country. I thank your family, who lent you to our country for 72 years. I thank you for the impact and legacy that you leave, and we will do our best to honour it.
I too rise to join with colleagues in acknowledging the service of former Senator Jim Molan AO, DSC. I will just make a few comments today. I have a fairly short contribution. I also want to associate myself with the comments previously made by others.
While many senators so far have reflected on various aspects of Senator Molan's service, including his extensive defence work and his national security work, I, like Senator McCarthy, really want to focus on the work we did together on the Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education, along with Senator McCarthy, Senator Rice and former senator Kristina Keneally. This was the only committee I served on with Senator Molan. Like me, he had been touched by the tragedy of stillbirth, having lost a grandchild who was born still in 2007. This was a tragic event for his family, particularly his daughter and her husband, but it did give Senator Molan, I believe, a perspective on stillbirth that made his contribution to the inquiry all the more valuable. He was the only male on the committee, and I don't think there could have been a better rep from the other side.
As Senator McCarthy and others have said, in this place, working on committees together, you get to know people and you get to understand them. Although I've been here for a very long time, this was, as I said, the only committee I worked on with Senator Molan. Prior to that committee I'd always thought: 'He's a happy guy. This guy is a happy guy.' He would always say hello to you in the corridors. He would always have a smile. That never, ever changed. From the first minute he was here, that's how I always thought of him. I didn't know him that well, and then we did the stillbirth committee. It was a bit of a challenge to some of us but it was a pleasure to have Senator Molan on that inquiry, although it was such a tragic and heartbreaking subject. We listened to witnesses who were traumatised and grieving, and Senator Molan, along with the other members of the committee, was hugely respectful, considerate and caring towards those witnesses. I thought the compassion, the thoughtfulness and the humility that Senator Molan demonstrated throughout the inquiry was highly admirable. I firmly believe that was how he was in life, and, listening to other people today, I think I'm right in having that view.
Like the other senators on that inquiry, Senator Molan understood that it was a tough conversation to confront but one that Australia had to have. It was a conversation for some of us, including him and me, that caused us to at times relive painful memories. Nevertheless, the work was done and it was done collegiately. Whether they were Labor, Liberal or Greens, the people on that committee truly showed the parliament at its best. I've been here for 15 years. I've got to say that I think that committee really did show the parliament at its best, and I would like to thank Senator Molan for his truly valuable contribution to that effort. Senator Molan's advocacy for supporting families affected by stillbirth and for reducing rates of stillbirth in Australia didn't just start and end with the inquiry. He continued that work afterwards as well.
We weren't close friends but, as I said, he was friendly to everyone. It was in his whole nature. As I said, he would always smile and say hello when passing in the corridor. I found out that his birth name—his first name—was Andrew. I used to think it was James and he was just called Jim but then I found out it was Andrew, and so I would always greet him in the corridors with, 'Hello, Andrew.' He would always laugh, always have a smile and always respond very cordially, 'Hello, Senator Bilyk.' But I would always say to him, 'Hello, Andrew,' and he always took it in good humour.
Senator Molan and I belong to a very select group of people. I am a cancer survivor—well, I'm in remission—as everybody in this place knows. I didn't talk to Senator Molan about his illness all that much, but can I say that just staying on top of it takes a lot of personal courage. Just being able to get up some mornings takes a lot of personal courage, even when you're in remission. From that perspective, I take my hat off to him for always being cheery. I'm not like that. Some days I'm like: 'Why me?' Of course, the question is: 'Why not me?' I don't think Jim was ever like that. Certainly, I don't think anybody in this place ever saw him like that. So I do take my hat off to him for that.
I would like to convey my sincere condolences to Senator Molan's family, his friends and his former staff. It's pretty hard work, I think, when something like this happens to your boss. I know through the stillbirth inquiry how much respect he had for his staff and they had for him. To his family I will just say I knew him as a kind, considerate, compassionate gentleman. You are no doubt proud of his legacy, and deservedly so. I hope you have very fond memories of him and I hope they help you at this very sad time. Vale Jim Molan.
On behalf of Queenslanders and the Queensland Liberal-National Party, I pay my respects to the late Jim Molan, his family, his staff and his many, many, many friends. Let life not be measured by length of words or speeches but by service—and Jim Molan served. Jim Molan served God, Queen and country. He served our Liberal cause. He served with distinction that our words today, no matter how worthy, will but touch. He was a patriot—a patriot who served the crusade for freedom as a soldier, diplomat, leader and author; a general who, as he rose through the ranks, never forgot those who worked with him on that path. Senator Molan forgot more about the strategic challenges facing Australia than most would ever learn—not that he forgot much.
As a senator, a parliamentarian, he saw his role as protector, defender and fighter for and of the values that built Australia and actually within his own party, the Liberal Party of New South Wales. He was as humble as he was passionate, as polite as he was steely, as funny as he was thoughtful, full of the joys of life no matter what life threw at him. Jim lived with gratitude for that life and for his family. We are thankful for his sacrifices and that of his family. Australia is poorer—much poorer—with the passing of Senator Molan. We honour his service as a servant leader, and it is up to all of us in this place to deliver on the legacy of Senator Molan in the words and speeches that we have delivered today.
The loss of our friend and senator Jim Molan was felt in every corner of the Liberal Party. I join with my Senate colleagues and all Western Australians Liberals in recognising the loss and the life of a great Australian, a devoted parliamentarian. Jim Molan was a man who understood in a deep sense what it means to be committed to the service of our nation. Having spent 40 years in the military, being deployed to six countries and taking numerous leadership roles, Jim placed his life on the line for the advancement of Australia and its security. In his role as a commander, he shouldered the responsibility of protecting the lives of ADF personnel, leading from the front. He was rightly honoured as an officer of the Order of Australia for his dedication, alongside other accolades, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the United States Legion of Merit.
Since his untimely passing, many have spoken on his storied career in the military, his professionalism and his skill. Today I add my voice to theirs, but it is pertinent to remember that Jim's time in the military was not the full story of his love of our country and of his community. He was a devoted senator, rightly known for his dedication to values and integrity and for continuing his responsibility in this place with great professionalism even during illness. Jim was also an author, having written three books, all of them related to Australia's national security and military capacity. He wrote on his time in Iraq, making candid assessments of mistakes made that conflict, as well as the general structure of the ADF. In doing so, he revealed his honesty, willing to call out failings and errors in the interests of Australia's protection and prosperity. Jim understood that, without self-critique, there is no growth, and that is true for people, institutions and nations.
I had the opportunity to share with Jim following the publication of his most recent book, Danger On Our Doorstep, a warning and risk-analysis assessment of some of the major security threats for Australia and the South-East Asian region. It now remains as one of his last acts of service to our country. Jim's writing was testament to his intellect, a tool he also employed during his contributions to parliament. He was instrumental in the development of the coalition government's Operation Sovereign Borders policy and, throughout his time in the Senate, he defended Australia's security interests with great energy. Jim was also a regular and respected contributor to the Australian, and a frequent commentator on several political talk shows. It is a testament to his work ethic that a little over two weeks before he passed away Jim was interviewed on live television to discuss security matters in the Taiwan Strait.
As the opposition leader noted in his remarks at Jim's funeral, despite all the extreme conditions Jim would have endured in his career in the military, and the many challenging circumstances he faced, he remained a kind and considerate man. The relationship between senators and chief whips can be eclectic, enigmatic, joyous, less joyous—but always one of discretion and trust. I am grateful for the trust and moments of honesty that Jim shared with me. His example of lifelong leadership is one for all of us to follow: one of disciplined service, devotion to country and love for family—to whom I send my best and most sincere wishes. May we all honour his legacy by our own actions in this place. Vale, Jim Molan.
I want to associate myself with the remarks of all those who have preceded me in this discussion of the condolence motion. I rise, particularly proud, as a senator for New South Wales, in having served alongside Senator Jim Molan. I can certainly say that he found himself in many situations of conflict and challenge, and even in these latter years here as a servant of democracy, that pattern of conflict and challenge was part of his life on his way into and his retention in the Senate. Not for a moment did he ever resile from that conflict. In fact, I think he had the character to embrace it and to understand very, very deeply what service of your nation means and that that service can happen in many different contexts.
Indeed it's a sad day, but I am honoured to rise to acknowledge the great life and works of Senator Jim Molan, AO, DSC, a former major-general in the proud Australian Army. I want to take this sad opportunity to pay tribute to him and his lifetime of service to the country—and particularly his service in the cause of democracy, which was operational in the very different parts of his life. And also his care and affection for his family, who are here today. Not everybody reveals that in this place, but it was absolutely a characteristic of Senator Molan. I think it's an indication of incredible strength and a sense of how proudly he served the nation, with your grace and through and for you as a family. I want to honour your sacrifice in enabling that, because he certainly was supported by you in his time here.
Many have spoken about Jim's life. He invested everything of his energy in every day, and I think it bears some repetition on this occasion. Born in that august year, 1951, following his upbringing in Victoria he joined the Australian Army in 1971—a very different time to that of today where young men and women are joining Duntroon and beginning their careers. He served for 40 years in our armed services, including as Chief of Operations in Iraq, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, as well as the Legion of Merit by the United States government. His service also took him to postings in Asia, about which he gained incredible cultural and significant practical knowledge that he used then to inform his interactions in this place. Time was spent in Timor, in Jakarta, in Papua New Guinea and with the Australian Defence College. He left the army with a final rank of major-general.
I didn't know Jim in any of those roles. I only met him when he arrived here in the Senate in 2017. It was a time of tumult, when the parliament was roiled by the eligibility crisis. Immediately Jim arrived perhaps in the way only somebody who had served with his level of distinction in the armed services could. He certainly made his mark very promptly upon arrival. His tenacity and his own prodigious resume ensured that, despite many political setbacks that for others would have led to their retreat, Senator Molan continued his advance in the service of democracy, and he was returned to this place by the voters of New South Wales in 2022.
Senator Jim Molan should have spent the next six years, richly deserved, quietly making his valuable impact on policymaking for our nation. I know that he would have enjoyed, in between that contribution to the nation, great continuing relationships and time with his family. We will miss him, but they will miss him so much more.
I enjoyed Jim's insights and our many discussions after attending the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. I was always intrigued by his line of questioning, and, as somebody who is outside the military, I think he was a little intrigued by some of my questioning as well. That led to great conversations. Jim was very generous with his insights, and he was very frank and open in his assessments.
Jim was very compassionate and deeply, personally involved in the stillbirth inquiry. As the comments today give testament to, he is remembered very fondly and very well by the colleagues who worked with him on that particular inquiry. I note the comments of Senator Bilyk, who was on that inquiry with him.
Apart from his insightful and deeply knowledgeable contributions regarding national security and defence policy, Jim was just a man who had a sense of how policy can impact family and impact on the people that he'd served with. I think he took that with great care and concern as he gave each issue its due consideration.
Jim's leadership, his stalwart patriotism and his affability were a credit to the chamber and the nation. In fact, one evening—just as a mark of the man—I remember at the end of a long sitting of estimates, which sees senators wandering the corridors a little exhausted after 11 pm. Jim had returned from having surgery on his hip and, as he was walking along the corridor I spoke to him and said, 'You look like you're recovering really, really well from your operation.' His equanimity in response—his sense of determination just to get on with the recovery and continue with his job—revealed his unflappability. I recall that conversation quite fondly, because it was a bit of a joke and a bit of a laugh at the end of a very long day. As Senator Bilyk indicated, I never for one moment saw self-pity as Jim tackled the health challenges that confronted him, and the quality of his contributions over that period of time never diminished. These things are not only, as I said, a testament to his character but also something that I'm sure the family will be very, very proud of. I'm sure his great tradition and education about how to be a great citizen will continue in the rest of the family as you continue his legacy.
I pass my deepest condolences on to Jim's wife, Anne, and to your and Jim's four children and five grandchildren. I pray, and indeed I know, that his memory is a blessing and that his lifetime of service to this great nation and this parliament has left a resounding legacy of which you can be rightly proud. Vale, Jim Molan.
I rise to pay respect to an upstanding member of the Liberal Party, a dedicated representative of New South Wales and a distinguished major-general, Andrew James Molan, AO, DSC, who we all knew as Jim.
Senator Molan's passing is being felt around this chamber and in this parliament by all of us who knew him and by the Australian community who so greatly admired him and his lifetime of dedicated service to our nation. As a representative in the Senate for New South Wales, Jim was a champion for his state: a man of honour, who worked with distinction to serve the interests of his community. He was a proud Liberal, but above all he was a proud Australian and a fierce defender of our national sovereignty, both in the parliament and in his distinguished career in our armed forces.
Jim will be remembered as one of Australia's most important voices in speaking up eloquently and persuasively about the increasing security threats Australia faces and the need for us to more urgently prepare for those threats. Jim's deep knowledge and understanding of issues of national security and Australia's armed force capabilities stemmed from his time serving in our defence forces, where he attained the rank of major-general in the Australian Army. With a number of published works to his name, the breadth of Jim's expertise made him a highly respected voice on such matters. His final book, published just last year, Danger on our Doorstep, made a sobering assessment of the challenges to regional and global security posed by an increasingly aggressive Chinese Communist Party.
On a personal level, I was honoured to have worked with Jim on the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, and I always deeply valued his wisdom and the guidance that he provided to me. I think I will continue to value that wisdom and guidance in retrospect from here.
His passion and his single-minded focus on issues of national security proved to be an invaluable asset when it came to scrutinising Australia's defence policy and military capability. It was a measure of Jim's character and dedication to Australia that, despite his ill health, he attended Senate estimates in November last year and asked a series of questions about our nation's defence capabilities that were, as usual for Jim, incisive, pertinent and deeply relevant to Australia's future challenges. In the years ahead, I and I'm sure many of my colleagues in the Liberal Party will do our best to continue Jim's legacy by asking the questions that Jim would have asked and speaking openly and without spin about the threats that Australia faces and what we need to do to counter them.
He was a good friend to all of us, a mentor to many and a voice of reason within our party room and the parliament, and I know that he will be deeply missed. I extend sincere condolences to Jim's family, particularly those who are here today, who I know have lost a loving husband, father and grandfather. Rest in peace, Jim, and thank you for your service.
It is with sadness that I rise today to pay tribute to Senator Jim Molan, AO DSC. He was a true gentleman, a trusted colleague and a friend. The Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, said Jim was admired for his discernment, leadership and unfailingly courteous manner, and the Prime Minister described Jim as a man of principle and a politician of conviction. These apt summations of Jim's personality, work ethic and attitude to life are words I have been reflecting upon since his death.
Many in this chamber have already spoken with great respect about Jim Molan's five years as a senator for New South Wales and his distinguished service with the Australian Defence Force, from which he retired as a major-general in 2008. Senator Molan's dedication to the people, whether as a parliamentarian or as a member of the defence forces, is something to be celebrated. During his four decades in the Australian Army, Jim served in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia, Germany, the United States and Iraq, commanding thousands of soldiers across coalition nations in this time. Jim was appointed as chief of operations for the coalition forces in Iraq. His service was recognised when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit by the Australian and US governments respectively. He was also appointed as a member of the Order of Australia in 1992 and later made an officer in the Order of Australia in 2000.
Jim bridged the gap between active service and politics by working with our former prime minister, Scott Morrison, on the coalition's border control policy Operation Sovereign Borders. In his own words, Jim considered this policy to be a 'successful and humane approach to a complex strategic law enforcement and humanitarian problem'.
His distinguished career in the Australian Defence Force meant Jim was sought out by the media to speak on defence and national security issues, with him often discussing the importance of a national security strategy for Australia. He also helped educate readers on warfare, diplomacy and changing relationships in our geographic region through his books Running the War in Iraq and Danger on our Doorstep.
As a senator, Jim contributed strongly during debates on immigration, defence and national security policy within the chamber. However, he also spoke passionately about other topics close to his heart, such as veteran support, fuel security, online safety, stillbirth, prostate cancer awareness and research, and foreign affairs and investment. And, as a Liberal senator, Jim took every opportunity to champion our great party. He worked hard to build our grassroots membership through sharing our party values and their relevance within our society.
The Royalla community in which Jim and his family lived in the New South Wales high country was richer through his involvement as a volunteer firefighter and rescue helicopter pilot, and his advocacy during the recent floods, the Black Summer bushfires in 2009, and the 2003 Canberra bushfires. His passion for the regions he represented through his work as a parliamentarian since 2007 was easy to see. Whether he was speaking with veterans about the wellbeing centres and what they would mean to him, sharing updates about what he and his dedicated team were doing in Parliament House, updating the electorate on how he was representing them in Canberra or simply giving a glimpse into his family life, his passion for the people he served was evident in everything Jim did.
Service was a big part of Jim's life, both military and public, but Jim Molan was also a supportive and encouraging friend; a devoted husband, father and grandfather; and a hardworking, decent man. I offer my sincere condolences to Jim's wife, Anne; their four children, Sarah, Erin, Felicity and Michael; and their five grandchildren, Sophie, Angus, Eliza, Grace and Andrew. They remembered his full life, courageously lived, devoted to family and in service of the country he loved. Indeed, during his recent funeral, or celebration of life, as previously commented, Jim's daughter Erin shared how proud she was of her father, and he of them, his four children. Jim was her go-to man, whose opinion she respected most. She says he taught his family to care deeply for each other and their country. Erin said Jim led by example and had instilled in all of them a work ethic that she will ever be grateful for. It's a great legacy. Son Michael spoke of Jim's unwavering appetite, hunger, determination, focus and passion as metaphors for how he lived his life.
At this point I would also like to acknowledge and thank Jim's staff and, in particular, Jackie Cummins, who I know has been a great strength to Jim and his family throughout his illness and since his passing. I've also been asked to pass on my brother David Bushby's condolences to Jim's family. As the Chief Government Whip at the time Jim first joined the Senate, David worked closely with Jim until David's retirement from the Senate early in 2019. On his Facebook post at the time of Jim's passing, David described Jim's life as a rare example of a life fully devoted to the service of others, combined with a deep desire and conviction to improving their lives.
I had the privilege of sitting next to Jim in the Senate chamber for most of the 46th Parliament and appreciated his generous support, encouragement and friendship during that time. I admired and respected Jim and reflected often on how well he managed his cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment with grace and bravery, as he had lived his life. I will miss Jim and want to thank him for his tireless service throughout his life. Lest we forget, and may he rest in peace.
Madam Acting Deputy President Walsh, I seek leave to table a contribution from Senator Brockman, who is unable to be here today.
I rise, too, to give a few short remarks in relation to the condolence motion for former senator Jim Molan AO, DSC. It's without a doubt that his contribution to this place was one of distinguished service, and he did that throughout his life. It's been spoken about in the chamber today by everyone in relation to his service through his military service, and his commitment to this nation and our people. In his military service, he rose to the rank of major general and was defence materiel advocate, adviser to Vice Chief of the Defence Force on joint war fighting, Commander of the Australian Defence College, officer of the Australian Army, deputy chief of operations for coalition forces in Iraq. Jim was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992 and he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2000.
I think what we can take from the contribution of Jim over the time that he served in this place is that he was open and friendly—people have remarked that he always had a smile on his face—but the one thing that he gave most of was his time. I always have believed that the greatest gift you can give anyone, whether it's your family, whether it's your friends, whether it's a colleague in need, is time. I think we can all take a leaf out of his book and learn to do that more often.
In these condolence motions we often talk about people's service, about their personality, and we pay tribute to their families. But it is without doubt that Senator Molan's family not only gave up their time with him when he served in the military forces but also when he came to this place. We who sit here, and those listening, know how much time and sacrifice families make for the service of their loved ones in this place—particularly for him, on top of his military service. Having family that have served in the military, I know only too well of the sacrifices those families make.
I pass on my deep respect and condolences to his wife and family, and to his friends and extended family. I understand the unimaginable time of grief and loss. What is too difficult to acknowledge is that we have lost three senators in the last two years: the late former senators Kimberley Kitching and Alex Gallacher and now Senator Jim Molan. It's a time when we should be reflecting on not only our service and our lives and the commitment that our families make to support us here; we need to ensure—from a suggestion that's been made in the past, and I've been speaking to the Special Minister of State about it—that we have recognition of those who die while in office. I think the best way would be for a rose garden, as a mark of respect. Unfortunately, since I've been in this place we've had four senators pass away while in service to their country. So we will continue to do that.
I honour Jim's contribution. I never got to serve with him on any committees, but we've already had Senator McCarthy speak about the stillbirth inquiry she chaired and I know, from conversations I've had with others in this place, that his personal experience brought a deeper understanding of all of those issues. That reflects the man that he was. Yes, he was tall in stature, but whenever he was in a room he lit it up with his charm, his intellect and his friendliness. So he will be sorely missed by, I think, everyone in this chamber, irrespective of which side of the chamber whence they come.
It is a time to reflect on some of the attributes that have been talked about this morning, and I'd like to say that I share so many of those contributions that have been made. To know that he was respected, to have so many people get up and make their contribution, is a testament to the man that he was. My condolences. Rest in peace, Jim. You have served your country, you have served your parliament and you have been a leader of not only your community but also your family. Rest in peace.
N () (): This is the saddest first day back at school that I have ever experienced. It's always a little bit of a downer, coming back and leaving your family to start the year, but the one silver lining is that you get to catch up with people you haven't seen for some months. It's people, like Jim, who are good natured, good humoured, that make this town bearable for half the year for us all. So it's extremely sad not to see Jim here, this year, to catch up with him. It is very sad on a personal level to have lost him from this place, and it is sad for us as a nation as well to have lost his contribution, especially at these times. Jim was a great Australian. He was the living embodiment of the best this country can be. He was a larrikin but always in a good-natured, good-humoured way. He was an authority figure. He was tall in stature and commanded a level of respect, but he was never subservient, either. He didn't allow authority to dictate what he should do. And, most of all, he was just a mate to us all—a mate to everybody. He'd always have a kind word and a generous ear for anyone that came into this place or the House. He will be greatly missed.
Jim loved Australia, and Australia loved Jim too. He has a remarkable record at elections, despite not having won that many. I think he has received more votes at a personal level than probably anyone else in the parliament today. When he stood in an unwinnable position at the 2019 election, he ran a little bit of a campaign. It's pretty hard to do in the Senate—to run a personal campaign—but he received over 137,000 personal votes, or below-the-line votes, as we call them. That's a remarkable achievement. Most of us here are not here on the back of a personal following—all of us really. We're here to represent a political party, and people vote overwhelmingly for that party. So we're here as part of a team. But Jim was so well known and so loved by Australians that he was able to, as I say, achieve 137,000 votes. That's more than anyone in the other place gets, either. They do get the personal votes, but even the most popular members of the House of Representatives would not achieve half of the vote tally that Jim did at that election.
Notwithstanding that support, he still wasn't able to be elected, even on that remarkable backing. But we're so glad that he did come back for a second stint, especially at the times we've faced. He really was the people's senator, wasn't he. He was a people's senator because the people actually voted for Jim, unlike the rest of us. I do take some credit for helping Jim get here in the first place. He arrived on the back of the citizenship scandal of now over five years ago. As a suspected Italian at the time, I along with a few other people in this place helped to bring about the controversy that allowed Jim entry. Jim did get here on the unfortunate dismissal or removal of a fellow Nationals senator, so we were a little chagrined in the National Party that this upstart from the Liberal Party was coming to take one of our seats. But, after getting to know Jim very quickly, we still felt the loss of Fiona, but he was an ample replacement, especially for all the work I know he did in regional New South Wales.
When Jim first arrived here, I didn't know Jim. I knew of Jim, particularly given his work on Operation Sovereign Borders, but I didn't personally know him. He was one of the few senators to arrive in this place with a real baptism of fire, because for whatever reason the press gallery just had it out for him. They dragged up some retweets and Facebook posts. I looked it up before. I'd forgotten about it; everyone's forgotten about it. It was such a silly controversy. But it was quite intense, as these things are, at that time. For a newly arrived senator it can be very, very intimidating. But I just remember it was water off a duck's back to Jim. A few of us went up to see how he was going. As I said, I didn't know him, but he never looked perturbed by it all under such intense pressure and glare. I suppose, after getting to know him, he was great in this place because he was able to disarm the press gallery with as much ease as disarming an unruly militia in a strife-worn town. They were nothing compared to what he had to deal with in his life, and a lot of us could take a leaf out of Jim's book in not being intimidated by the respected ladies and gentlemen upstairs in the press gallery.
He very early established himself as a senior figure within this chamber. As many others have commented on, he contributed widely on a wide list of areas and policy imperatives for our nation.
As has been commented, Jim was a bit of a renaissance man. He was a soldier, but he was also a firefighter. He was a writer, a commentator, a father, a great family man, a great Australian. While he is most well-known for his contributions on defence policy, I think it's really important to note the unique perspective he brought to this most important area of concern for our country. I had long discussions with Jim about the need to reindustrialise this nation, or to at least avoid our deindustrialisation. Jim had a keen awareness that the ability to defend Australia does not begin and end with the men and women in khaki. It is probably more going to come down to our businessmen and women and our workers in high-vis who can make the things that would allow those men and women in khaki to ultimately defend our nation if the worst happens. Because he had such a wide range of life experiences, he was able to somewhat transcend the often narrow and at times self-interested agendas of the defence establishment in our nation. He wasn't always looking at ships and guns and submarines—and tanks, of course. Although he did make major contributions on those issues, he was also able to look beyond that and see the need for our country to actually have an industry and to have a strong economy that could help defend this great nation of ours.
If there's anything that we can remember Jim for, it would be to take that wider lens on these issues: do not operate in silos and think that just because we've got the latest defence procurement plan ready and done we will be okay. We do need to take Jim's approach to these issues and look at the broader risks and problems for our country.
He, of course, was an early harbinger of the challenge that we face with the rise of China in our region. I think Jim's views here on those risks have been the most impactful, because they're widely accepted. But it should be recalled that, when Jim started raising this issue of China, at the time Australia was signing a free trade agreement with the Chinese government. We had had almost four decades of uninterrupted improvements in Australian-Chinese relationships, and Jim belled the alarm more quickly than most about the fact that this relationship had the potential to go awry very quickly.
We've all seen over the weekend a big balloon flying other the continental United States, reminding us all of the wisdom of Jim's approach. I hope that we do not ignore Jim, even though he is not in this place any longer, about the need to maintain a very clear-sighted view of the behaviours, interests and agendas of the Chinese Communist Party in our region, and not be sucked into doing business with a country that cannot be trusted. The way for us to avoid that is to take up Jim's challenge of reinvesting back in our country, in our defences and in our economy. The best way we can honour Jim is to continue to live by his example of loving this country, and loving it so much that we will do anything to defend it.
I am confident that while Jim physically has gone from this place, his ideas, influence and legacy will long shadow over our debates. I often look up through that little glass window up there, when I'm sitting in the chamber, contemplating my life choices—hopefully I won't look up and see a balloon anytime soon!—but I will look up now and think of Jim and do everything I can to live by his example in doing the best by our great country of Australia.
My full condolences go to Jim's wonderful family. It was a beautiful service last week. That will be his best legacy: a wonderful and loving family. It's great that so many of you can be here today. To Anne, his children and grandchildren, all my condolences. Vale, Jim Molan.
Firstly I'd like to acknowledge Senator Molan's family in the gallery. Senator Molan was a great Australian. His passing has robbed Australia of a true statesman. His contribution to public life will be missed.
Now, Senator Molan loved his country, and he dedicated himself to the service of his country every single day. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he sought to defend our nation, and he never shied away from a fight. He served Australia for four decades in the Army, where he distinguished himself in various conflicts around the world and rose to the rank of major general, as we all know. His sound judgement led to a senior appointment running the multinational task force in Iraq, yet when he retired from the Army, he didn't rest on his laurels. He threw himself into the defence of Australia once again, this time helping to design Operation Sovereign Borders to protect our country from the uncontrolled flow of unauthorised arrivals, which threatened the integrity of our orderly and humanitarian refugee program. Despite all the naysayers who said it couldn't be done, the program was a resounding success—so much so that other nations have sought to copy us.
Even then Jim was not prepared to sit back and enjoy his well-earned retirement. Instead, he entered the civilian battlefield of politics, winning a seat in the Senate for the Liberals in New South Wales. He used his position to tackle the greatest threat facing Australia. He wasn't afraid to point out that that threat was not climate change; that threat was the global ambition of a rising China. In his last book, Danger on Our Doorstep, which I'm proud to say I do own and I have read, Jim warned that war with China was not only possible but it was much more likely than people might realise sitting at home.
As Jim said, Australia is large enough. We are rich enough to defend ourselves. We just have to understand the vital importance of the old saying, 'If you want peace, you must prepare for war' and, as he put it himself: 'We don't have 75 years to muck around with a Gucci military designed to send small token forces to be part of the US force with the aim of showing the flag. We have to deter China by being capable of winning an armed conflict. We need nuclear powered submarines not in a couple of decades but as soon as possible. Under our current procurement strategy, they will arrive too late to solve our most urgent problem, which is how do we defend ourselves now, particularly if the US was unable to come to our aid? We need to strengthen our military, we need to become more economically resilient and we need to be psychologically battle-ready. Instead of dividing our nation along racial lines, which some have sought to do, and looking backwards with shame or anger, we need to unite as a people proud of our achievements, forward-looking and, most importantly, ready to defend our country.'
Senator Molan was a rare man in this day and age: a man who insisted that facts, however unpleasant, must direct our thinking. He insisted that reality rather than ideology should inform our perspective and, as a result, his plain thinking and clear-sighted vision provided an invaluable resource to our nation.
The best way, I think, to honour Senator Molan's life and work is to take up the baton of properly preparing Australia for a war with China that none of us want to fight but which we can only deter by being prepared to fight and to win. Our nation has lost a great patriot and a fearless warrior. May he rest in peace and may his legacy live on and inspire us all to do better and to defend our nation.
I rise to make my contribution to the motion of condolence for Major General Andrew James 'Jim' Molan AO DSC, and I acknowledge his family in the gallery here today. I acknowledge the contributions and I associate myself with the contributions of colleagues around the chamber. I thank the government for the way that they've supported the arrangements for today's motion, as acknowledged by Senator Birmingham. It is a great tribute to Jim that the government has been prepared to do that; I think it's a clear demonstration of the mark of respect for Jim across this chamber that the government's been prepared to do that.
Much has been said of Jim's military service for over 40 years in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor, Iraq. Forty years of service in the Defence Force is in itself an extraordinary thing. The progression of his career, his promotions and his experiences also became so valuable to the development and implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders. Jim's understanding of the region, Jim's understanding of the people not only here in Australia but in Indonesia and that experience was put to use so powerfully in the design of Operation Sovereign Borders and then the implementation of it. The fact that remains a policy today makes it one of Jim's great legacies. Despite the criticisms of the policy and its implementation, we understand its effect.
It's quite sadly the case that it's on occasions such as this that we learn so much more about our colleagues. Jim was so much more than just a military man. As has been indicated today, he was a man who so strongly supported his community. He gave to his community in the form of his service through the country fire service, for example. He was also strong as an advocator for his community as part of his parliamentary service.
I had a number of occasions to interact with him when things weren't going as they could have been in his community, and his advocacy was always there. As has been said by so many of our colleagues, it wasn't aggressive; it was factual, it was persistent and it was looking for solutions for his community. We all respected him so much for the way that he conducted himself in providing that advocacy for his community for the issues that he was working on, and they've been very well described across the chamber today. Sometimes we actually get cast by the public perception of who we are, and I think today is a great opportunity for us to reflect on the greater breadth of Jim that was the reality and to pay acknowledgement to that and to recognise how much he gave in so many different ways.
Like Jim, I came back into this place through the accident of section 44, a little bit after Jim. He'd been here before me, and my first interactions with him were walking to divisions from the part of the building where we'd both been stationed when we'd come back in. That was about the time of his hip replacement, and I can always remember, when I walked behind him, when I caught up with him as we walked down the corridor, how straight he stood. I think that's a mark of Jim too. He stood strong. He stood tall. He always did in whatever he did. You knew he was hurting, but he wasn't going to let it beat him, and he continued to hold a posture. That was a reflection of him more broadly—the way that he carried himself. Many have spoken about his presence in this place. It was more than just about what he said. He was a man of his word. He was a man you knew you could trust. He was honest. He was the straightest arrow. I'm so pleased I had the opportunity to know him.
There's been discussion about his smile. On the very sad occasion of his passing I was sent some photographs of his interactions with various colleagues around the chamber, and there's a photograph of me and Jim sitting over there in the corner of the chamber. When the place was a lot more sparsely populated, in divisions we got to sit right in the far reaches of the chamber. There's a photograph of him and me smiling, while we were talking to each other. I think that photographs of me smiling over the last three years are a pretty bloody rare thing! But Jim managed to get that out of me, and I was so pleased to receive that from my staff.
There's been a lot of discussion about his love for his family, and that smile was never as wide and never as proud as when we were talking about his family. We know how much he loved them. It's been said so many times around the chamber today, but you could see it in him when we were discussing family—how important his family were to him and how proud he was of his family. It wasn't just something that he said; you could see him glow, and you could see it in his smile when he was talking about his family.
Jim is someone who's been taken from us way too soon. He gave a lot, as we've all discussed, but, gee, he had so much more to give. Clearly, his legacy will live on through his actions, many of which have been discussed today; through the policy work that he did in the Defence Force, in the community and in this parliament; and of course through his own writings, which will endure.
I think we were all so pleased in the coalition Senate party room when Jim turned up to see us just before Christmas. It was so good to see him. He knew things were tough; we all had those personal conversations. But the fact that he took the time to come in and see us was just so special. We're all going to miss him. I think that's evident from what's been said around the chamber. We know that many others will miss him too, and we send our condolences to them. We know how much his family will miss him, just based on the fact of how much we're going to miss him and that they loved him so much more and they will miss him so much more. Sincerest condolences to you, Jim's family, to all those who loved him and to my colleagues who had so much regard for him. May Jim rest in peace. Vale, Jim Molan.
FAWCETT () (): I acknowledge Jim's family, friends and staff in the chamber today as I rise to make some comments on this motion. In Jim's maiden speech he talked about the words of Napoleon, who said:
… if you want to learn a nation's interests, go to the graves of its soldiers.
And it struck me yesterday, as we were at the Australian War Memorial for the 'Last Post', how appropriate those words were. On the one hand we were all there to remember the life of Lieutenant Stanley Le Fevre, but, as I stood, looked around at the gallery and saw the number of campaigns that Australians have been involved with, it brought back memories of Jim—his service and the number of places where he has served our nation.
We heard words from the Prime Minister about service and sacrifice, but also looking beyond the serviceman to the families who were left with a void. It brought me back to Jim and, Anne, what you and your family are going through. As the Leader of the Opposition spoke about the importance of democracy, freedom, being prepared to stand up and fight, and being prepared to defend and promote those things that enable us to be the nation that we are, it brought back to mind all the things that Jim stood for.
In his maiden speech, he was kind enough to mention the fact that Senator Reynolds and I had been the two people he had asked to escort him into the chamber—not that at that time I knew Jim well. We'd both graduated from Duntroon, we'd both had a career in the military and we were both Army pilots, but that was the first time I had started to have a direct interaction with Jim in a professional capacity. It did, however, give me the advantage of having been in those three institutions and understanding their mottos and ethos, having seen them so fully lived out.
In a time when so many companies have vision statements and values and when people give lip service to things, it's good to reflect on the values that the Army has. Service they define as 'the selflessness of character that places the security and interests of the nation and its people ahead of our own', and courage, respect, integrity and excellence, all of which we saw in Jim.
At Duntroon the motto was 'Learning promotes strength', and one thing that I knew about Jim from his time here and learned from comments at his funeral was his appetite for learning and for understanding and how that not only made him strong but made his contributions to this nation more powerful. The Australian Army Aviation Corps' motto is 'Vigilance', and we see in Jim's contributions his vigilance—his care for this nation, for his family and the fact that no effort was too much to help people be prepared.
Across the roles people that people have talked about here today—soldier, senator, parliamentarian, patriot, advocate and aviator—I've seen Jim work. We worked together on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and I've seen the detail of his work, his inquisitive nature, his willingness to challenge. Having sat in on cabinet office policy committees with Jim as we worked with leaders at the highest level in the nation to try and explain and advocate the importance, in Jim's case, of things like a national security strategy, I've seen the diligence and respect but also the passion with which he has approached these issues. I've had Jim visit South Australia in my paired seat of Makin and seen his advocacy for and ability to interact with veterans, and then to advocate for them powerfully back in this place.
We've heard a lot about Jim and his advocacy here, but, on the international stage, one of the groups he was involved with was the High Level Military Group, which advocated the rule of law, which sought to understand and to highlight the fact that not all governments and not all societies actually share the same values—about the fact that, whilst we, for example, are governed by the rules of armed conflict, there are nations which are authoritarian in nature which will seek to use those things to our detriment.
Jim is the first to admit that he's had his critics along the way, but he was happy to have the critics where he was standing up for something that mattered. The report they issued, for example, about Israel and some of Israel's military conflicts, where, in his words, Israel demonstrated that they had standards for their defence force in terms of adherence to the rules of armed conflict that matched, if not exceeded, those of our own—this earnt him many critics, but it's an example of where he was prepared to put himself forward to advocate the values that he believed were important.
As an aviator, he served in 171 Aviation Squadron, as I did, but he was the Honorary Colonel for the Australian Army Aviation Corps. In his words, 'It was like being the tribal elder,' and, as I think of Jim's role here in this place, to some extent that's the role he played. The tribal elder is not necessarily someone who has executive power, but the tribal elder is someone who brings a lot of wisdom, experience, insight, discernment and encouragement. That's what we saw him bring to the national policy debate and to colleagues in this place.
There's another aspect to his character that I don't think a lot of people would use to describe Jim. We've heard about his stature, about his leadership and about his ability to command. But I would say Jim had a large dose of humility, which is not something you often associate with senior leaders, whether in politics or in the military. But Jim was not only humble enough to join a local RFS, get on the tools and work but he was also humble enough to learn from people. He was humble enough to relate to people regardless of their stature. As we see, his ability to interact not only with community here but also professionally with people on all sides of politics—and internationally, in the relationships he built with the TNI of Indonesia and others—speaks volumes of the fact that he saw people. He respected people. The fact that so many people here have seen Jim as a friend speaks to the fact that he respected people, and he had the humility to value them and to value the time that he spent with them.
I'd like to finish by returning to the Australian War Memorial. In the midst of the pomp and ceremony of Australia's Federation Guard, of the fine speeches, of the laying of wreaths and of all the things that were going on, we were interrupted incessantly by the beating rotors of firefighting helicopters flying overhead, and I thought, 'Jim would think this is fantastic.' I could imagine him being far more interested in where they were going, what loads they were carrying and whether they were achieving their mission than in the pomp and ceremony. I thought that Last Post Ceremony summed up so much of what was great about Jim. Vale, Jim Molan.
I too join my colleagues in rising with great sadness today to pay my respects for the life of Major General and Senator Jim Molan, AO, DSC, a man I had the great honour of escorting here into the Senate chamber to be sworn in. That was a particular honour for me as a junior officer within Defence, where there was this towering figure of General Jim Molan. It was a great privilege and honour that he accorded me. I also acknowledge Anne and all his family, his friends and his staff, who are still mourning the loss of this great man.
Bapak Jim, or General Molan, was the rarest of officers. He was both a soldier's general and a general's general. He had that wonderful magic of the common touch, but also of great command presence. I thank the family very much for allowing many of us to join in that wonderful commemoration of his very rich life. Although, as was said, he wasn't much for pomp and circumstance, I'm sure he was looking down with great delight at this wonderful mixture of military honours and also a service that represented his deep Catholic faith. In particular, I'm sure he was down there looking with great pride at his very headstrong granddaughters, and he would be sitting there, probably chuckling—again with pride—and there is no doubt where they get that from.
Australia has lost a true servant of our nation and of our alliance, and it is also a great loss to many people across so many different aspects of Australian life. He was a complex man: he was a gentle man; he was a battle experienced soldier; a loving and devoted husband, as we've heard; and a father and grandfather. As Senator Fawcett said, he was a man of great humility but also a man of great humanity. He was a volunteer firefighter, an insightful author and a senator focused just as much on strategic geopolitics as he was on fixing some of society's biggest problems and challenges. He served, as we've heard, for four decades in the Australian Army before retiring in 2008. He was justly recognised for his distinguished service with a Distinguished Service Cross and also, as part of our alliance, with the American Legion of Merit for the work that he did on Operation Catalyst in Iraq.
His distinguished service also included deployments to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Germany and, of course, the United States. I had the opportunity to travel with Jim to a country we both have a great fondness for—that is, Israel—and I'll never forget our visit to Beersheba. I also remember going up to the Golan Heights and visiting UNDOF troops there. I have this fabulous picture—which I now treasure—of Jim and me standing there with UNDOF soldiers, and there is General Jim with these big glasses looking out into Syria, and you can see that great picture of a true general.
I also greatly admired Jim for his fierce intellect, which was so evident in his books, in his command of the Australian Defence College, in his leadership of thought in command leadership and more widely in politics. As Minister for Defence I was very grateful for Jim's approach to how he gave his advice. I always greatly appreciated the way that he provided advice and insights, but I also greatly appreciated that we had a shared value of seeing the world as it actually is and not necessarily how we would like it to be. I also appreciated that he understood, through his personal experience and his academic pursuits, that—as with generals—to be politicians in this place, to be compassionate for the people that we serve, we often have to be strong and we have to be decisive. He understood, as many of us do, that peace for our nation and for the globe requires strength, conviction and courage.
He was a true patriot, as many people have said, but he was also a nuanced patriot. Following his career, he became special envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders. That was a very challenging role, but we were so grateful on our side of politics—and I'm sure the nation was as well—that we had demonstrated a great and implementable policy, one that required great strength and courage of convictions to be compassionate. He, like those on this side, saw that we had to be strong and we had to stop the people-smuggling trade because that was the most compassionate outcome for those people who were being exploited and for the families who lost thousands of people when they drowned in the most horrific deaths at sea.
At Jim's funeral, there were many fitting tributes that captured his warmth, his smile, his leadership, his service, his courage, his community service, his intellect and his humility and compassion. But I think his priest, Father Grant, captured the essence of Jim so perfectly in referring to a life of gratitude. That gratitude is reciprocated by his colleagues here and by thousands of others whose lives he touched. We are so grateful for his life and his contributions. Quite simply, the Senate chamber and Australia will not be the same without him. I extend my deepest condolences to Jim's family, his friends and his staff, who are all here today, and I'm so glad you could be here to hear the respect and the love that we had for Jim.
Jim, I will greatly miss your smile, your friendship, your considered advice and what you brought to us all. Thank you for your service—a lifetime of service to our nation, in so many different roles. As was said in his service: rest easy, soldier—your duty is done.
At the outset, I associate myself with the remarks of all of my colleagues that I've had the pleasure of sitting and listening to over the course of today. Senator Canavan referred to a particular statistic which is quite unique; that is, that our good friend Senator Jim Molan received 137,325 votes under the line when he stood as a senator. That is an extraordinary figure. That sign of respect and regard from the people of New South Wales—tens and tens of thousands of them—reflects the honour and respect in which Senator Jim Molan was held better than anything we can articulate.
As my friend Senator McGrath did, I'd like to reflect on Jim's connection with my home state of Queensland. Jim was commanding officer of 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and served with great distinction. That battalion was raised at Alamein Barracks in Enoggera. I have spoken to members, veterans, of the Royal Australian Regiment and their respect and regard for Jim. I will speak further, in that respect, subsequently. The motto of that battalion is 'duty first'. Everything Senator Jim Molan did in his capacity as a senator in this place, as a soldier, as a pilot, as a linguist and as a commentator reflected that 'duty first'. But we do recognise, of course, that Jim was a husband, a father, a grandfather and a brother. That, perhaps, was the greatest duty he bore.
I reflect, firstly, on how Jim was a mate to us. He was a work colleague. He was something more than a senator or a general. He was a mate. I remember when I first met Jim: at an early morning meeting. Senators on the coalition side would have early morning meetings where we'd discuss notices of motion—at a quarter past eight or 8 o'clock in the morning. Quite often, these notices of motion were brought on at a day's notice. They dealt with many disparate topics. Sometimes they were pushing ideological agendas; other times, seeking wedge politics.
A group of us would always get together first thing in the morning and discuss these notices of motion. It was really in that context, each morning, first thing in the morning—we might have had a bit of a torrid day in politics the day before but as soon as Jim arrived, or when Jim was there, and you saw that big smile it meant so much to us. It was such a privilege to work with him.
Jim was also my buddy when we used to walk back to our offices from divisions. Senators here will know what that means. On the floor above, Jim's office was on the left side of the corridor and mine was on the right. Typically, we would walk up the stairs together and down the hallway, and we would linger for maybe five or 10 minutes at the fork in the hall as we discussed various things. I really cherish those moments and the times he spoke about his love for his family, his admiration for his daughter Erin—and how you were defending your honour and reputation through the court system and how important that was to him. There's also his intellectual curiosity. I would talk to him about what I was reading or books I'd read. He was always interested, always enthusiastic. He always had that sense of enthusiasm, which meant so much to us.
Jim used to laugh at my jokes.
A great man indeed, says Senator Henderson. That's what Jim was. He had such a generosity of spirit and a great sent of humour. As Senator Colbeck said, we spent a lot of good times, in these corners, during the awful COVID pandemic—in that corner that we used to call 'the sensible corner'. Quite often, those on this side of the place, during divisions, would gather—when we had to all spread out for the COVID pandemic—in that corner. Jim would be there, and my friend Senator Colbeck, Senator McLachlan and others. We'd have good chats and lift the darkness, somewhat, on what was a terrible time.
There's also the great contribution Jim made to public debate. In no better way was that articulated than in Jim's passion for a national security strategy, so I would like to read onto the record an excerpt from an article that Jim wrote for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on 30 July 2021. I want to read these paragraphs onto the record in acknowledgement and respect for Jim's deeply-held views in this regard. I can hear Jim saying these words as I read this. He wrote:
But how can there be a defence strategy without an overarching and comprehensive national security strategy? What good is it to have a brilliant defence strategy without national liquid fuel, industry, pharma, science and technology, manpower, diplomacy and stocking policies, and a plan to move from peacetime processes … to the wartime processes that are implied?
What good is it for us to be world class at anti-access/area denial based on brilliant materiel solutions if we can no longer feed the people due to a lack of diesel and if we're unable to move smoothly from a peacetime footing to a wartime footing in government and the bureaucracy because we haven't thought it through, and because we lack modern plans or processes? And if the government will put $270 billion into defence over the next 10 years because of the strategic environment, what are we doing for the nation as a whole? If we think vaccinating the population is difficult, try mobilising.
That is just so typical of Jim's common sense founded on decades of experience in this space. In memory of Jim all of us should reflect on and seek to take forward those thoughts and that vision in terms of the national security for this country.
There's a third area I want to touch on. Last Thursday I spent an evening at the Gaythorne RSL with my good friend Nev Robinson, who served in the Royal Australian Regiment. Nev served in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam. Jim meant a lot to Nev, as I am sure Jim meant to hundreds of thousands of Australians. Nev is a very patriotic Australian. He has had his health challenges of late, but he still wanted to spend that time sitting down with me at the Gaythorne RSL and giving his thoughts on Jim, so I want to convey those thoughts to the chamber now with respect to Jim.
We sat down and we spoke about Jim's book Running the War in Iraq. There are three items, amongst the others that Nev highlighted for me, that I wish to speak quickly on. Nev actually went through and highlighted pages out of Jim's book. He went to Officeworks. He was late to the catch-up at the Gaythorne RSL. He rang me and said: 'Mate, I'm on my way. I had to go to Officeworks. I wanted to photocopy these pages and show you. You have to reflect on this.' Nev, I'm doing that now, mate.
The first area is in relation to Jim's time in East Timor, at that extraordinarily difficult time when the people of East Timor voted for independence and democracy. Jim was on the ground in the most dangerous of positions, providing assistance to both Australians and civilians and leaders in the East Timorese community. I want to read a few paragraphs from the excerpts from this book because I think they provide an element of insight into the sorts of issues Jim was managing on the ground for the benefit of people. He's talking about his time at a place called Baucau. He wrote:
As the only uniformed Indonesian-speaking person who knew some of the militia, I tried to sort out the mess on the tarmac. The UN quite bravely refused to leave unless the safety of the locals could be guaranteed. Groups of terrified locals sat in a big block of humanity on the tarmac, with the UN workers surrounding them. Meanwhile, the militia were getting more and more worked up.
He also wrote:
For most of the day we negotiated over each group of local refugees. As I spoke with the sergeant, he nervously drew and re-holstered his pistol—
and this sergeant was from the militia. He wrote:
This worried me, both because it may have been a signal of his intent and because it definitely was a safety issue. The tension kept building.
And then it turned out that amongst this group was Bishop Belo, who was a leader of the Catholic Church in East Timor and had been a trenchant critic of the Indonesian government. So Jim was then faced with this group of civilians, who also had this bishop in their midst.
Now that we had moved some Timorese off the airport, the logjam was broken and the sergeant agreed that the rest could go in the C-130s. I felt I was finally making some progress, but as the militia commander and I were walking back towards the remaining group of Timorese, we noticed that among them was the religious leader of East Timor, the vehemently anti-Indonesian Bishop Carlos Belo, dressed in civilian clothes. Belo had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996—with Jose Ramos-Horta, then the voice of his people overseas—for advocating non-violent resistance to Indonesian rule. Now here he was, sitting on the tarmac at Bacau surrounded by refugees. Early on, Belo had been threatened by the Dili militia in a pamphlet that read, 'For now your robe is white. But it will soon be covered in the colour of your own blood.'
This was the situation Jim was facing on that tarmac.
Conscious of how much danger Belo was in, I told the militia sergeant that the bishop should be allowed to go to Australia. Allowing such a prominent global figure to be killed would be unforgivable … I remember stumbling, in my fatigue, for an appropriate local translation for 'Nobel Peace Prize winner'.
Then Jim describes how he dealt, on a very human and empathetic basis, with that local militia sergeant to effectively negotiate an outcome where Bishop Belo safely left that tarmac with all of those other civilians who were at risk—an absolutely outstanding outcome. Then he describes, at the last moment, when had just about successfully negotiated Bishop Belo's release and they were getting on the planes, the militia sergeant got the wobbles and all of a sudden wanted to drive a truck out to block the plane leaving. Again, Jim had to intercede and convince this militia sergeant that, no, that was not the right thing to do. It was too late; let them go. Mission accomplished.
The second extract from Jim's book that we talked about last Thursday night was the eight million Iraqis—eight million Iraqis!—who voted on 30 January 2005 when they were first given the opportunity. That was eight million of them! We talked about how much that meant to Jim, as he outlines in his book. He was actually gifted, by the independent electoral commission of Iraq, the ninth ballot paper that was cast in that election. He treasured that as representing what that mission was all about, in terms of providing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq.
Lastly, Anne, I note Jim's comments when he was presented with the US Legion of Merit: 'The day after I returned from Germany in August 2005, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, on behalf of the US Secretary of Defence, presented me with the official medal for the US Legion of Merit. Anne was invited to the function. She's been with me forever, in a way that I never deserved, and I have often rewarded her with absence and worry.'
Finally, if I can say to you, Anne, if I can say to the family: it was such a deep honour to attend the beautiful service for Jim at Duntroon. To the children: you did your dad so proud. There is probably no harder speech to give than the speech which you had to give on that day, but you did him so proud. You should really feel honoured by the contribution you made that day.
Lastly, Anne, I have a card from Nev who also served at RAR. I promised him, after our meeting at the Gaythorne RSL, that I would deliver this to you personally. I will come and do that now. As the Father at the service said, we should reflect on being grateful, and I am so grateful—so grateful—that I had the honour and privilege to work with and be a colleague, be a mate, of your husband, your father, your grandfather and brother. Vale, Senator Jim Molan.
I rise with a very heavy heart and enormous sadness to join with my Senate colleagues in honouring the magnificent life of Andrew James Molan AO DSC—a life of service to his country, to his community, to the parliament, a life of unconditional love for and pride in his family and a life of courage on the battlefield and in the battle of ideas. It was a life lived like few other Australians, because Jim Molan was a giant amongst men. I convey my deepest condolences to Jim's beloved wife, Anne, his four children, Sarah, Erin, Felicity and Michael, his adored grandchildren and his broader family.
Jim's passing has left a gaping chasm in the Senate and in our lives. I was honoured to call him my friend. Whatever the cause or the mission, he went about his work with unwavering dedication, intellect and courage. He was so kind, principled, funny and always positive. He walked with a bounce. For someone who rose to such high ranks in the Australian Defence Force, Jim was also incredibly humble and gracious. In Senate estimates, including on the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, which I chaired for some time, the former major-general who rose to run the multinational forces in Iraq and then co-authored and help execute Operation Sovereign Borders as a special envoy would question Home Affairs officials about national security matters with enormous purpose and insight but always with deep respect. Never once did he give the impression that he knew more than they did, even though I am certain that was so often the case.
Jim and I formed a special bond when he re-entered the Senate shortly after me in 2019, with Jim filling the casual vacancy left by Arthur Sinodinos, who went on to become Australia's ambassador to the United States. During that gruelling preselection process we would touch base frequently and give each other moral support. His win and re-entry into the Senate was broadly celebrated, but to members of the Liberal Party around the country Jim was a rock star. His understanding of the national security threats we face and his willingness to call them out and advocate for better policies, including a national security strategy, was held in the highest regard. As Senator Scarr has just referenced, Jim would be cheering from the rooftops hearing Senator Scarr read out part of his rationale for a national security strategy.
In early 2020, I asked Jim to be my special guest at a special Australia Day celebration that I was planning, but as COVID began to emerge we needed to cancel. We planned to reschedule the event, but it was never to be. I won't recite Jim's extensive CV, which has been very well documented in this motion, other than to say few men have served our country with such high distinction. Jim's awards included a Legion of Merit, awarded by the United States in 2004, and the Distinguished Service Cross, awarded in 2006. He was also appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 1992 and as an officer of the Order of Australia in 2000. Jim was highly respected as a public commentator on defence and national security issues and as an author. It was indeed an honour to attend his book launch last year at Parliament House for Danger on our Doorstep. This is a must-read.
Jim and I would often speak about the horrors of social media trolling and his pride in you, Erin, for standing up. He was so proud of the way that you stood up to the bullies and trolls and those who defamed you, belittled you and abused you. He was so proud of your work, including your amazing support and advocacy for the coalition's Online Safety Act. He was in the trenches with you every step of the way.
Thank you, Jim, for your legacy, which inspires us as senators to be more courageous; to never give up fighting for what is right in the service of our country; to live our best life; to express our gratitude; to love our family and friends; and to leave nothing on the field. We all loved Jim, and my last words to him were in a message I sent at the end of last year, after he came to visit us in our Senate party room. I wrote: 'Don't worry about your emotions, no-one could care less. We all just love you and miss you, and want you back as soon as possible.' Jim, rest in peace.
Today we honour and celebrate the life of a good friend, colleague, statesman, father, family member and, of course, great Australian. I pass on my deepest condolences to Jim's wife, Anne; his children, Sarah, Erin, Felicity and Michael; all extended family; and those who were closest to Jim.
As we've heard today, Jim has left a lasting legacy of service to Australia through his distinguished military career and, indeed, as a senator here in this place. Jim served, as we've heard, in the Defence Force for over 40 years—a tremendous service to the Australian people and, indeed, to people right across the world—from graduating from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, to commanding more troops than any Australian since World War II during his time in Iraq, as well as being deployed in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia and Germany. But after such a distinguished career in the military, he clearly wanted to continue to serve his nation, and he has done that here in this place.
Unfortunately, Jim and I never got to serve together on any of the committees that many of my colleagues have remarked on. Those from both sides have spoken about their experience and how they profited personally from working with him. I never got that opportunity, but it didn't matter, because, as Senator Scarr said, there were other moments throughout our week where we did get to interact. Whether it was in those early morning meetings where we discuss policy motions, or during a division, or during one of our party room meetings or just simply a morning tea, you'd get the opportunity to talk with Jim.
I think that one of the things that really stood out to me was that he was never short of an encouraging word. He'd often be in his office, and he'd have the TV on with the chamber broadcast as he was doing some work—possibly writing a book like the one I've got here—and he'd obviously keep one ear to the screen, listening to what was happening. He'd take note of a speech you'd given, and he would always take the time to say, 'I loved what you said when you spoke about this.' He always took the time to acknowledge the work of others. This came from a man who had achieved so much, so when you got an encouraging word from someone like Jim you really took it to heart. He'd always take that time.
The other thing that really stood out to me—and I think many have remarked on this today as well—is that Jim was unapologetically patriotic. His courage led him from the front lines of war to this very Senate chamber, where in both cases he fought tirelessly to protect and safeguard the future of Australia. To echo the words of former prime minister Tony Abbott:
Jim never did anything for Jim. He always did it for our country and for the causes he believed in.
Through his role as a senator for New South Wales, Jim has been sounding the alarm on the sleeping aggressor to our north, China, and Australia's military preparedness to combat this inevitable conflict. Even through his battle with cancer he continued to raise awareness about the CCP, writing the Danger OnOur Doorstep, a book that I would recommend to everyone. Without letting Jim know, I purchased a number of these books to give away as gifts. Jim's staff must have let him know that I'd made this purchase, and so he added an extra one in that was especially for me. He didn't know I actually already had a copy, but I've kept this special one because he's written in the front of it. He's written in his own pen: 'For the sovereignty and freedom of Australia. Thanks, Matt.' I think those few words sum up who Jim was and the commitment that he had to fighting right through to the very end for the sovereignty and freedom of Australia.
Right through his battle with cancer, Jim was an example to all of us. Some have remarked today, Liberal colleagues and National colleagues, that Jim came into our very last party room meeting at the conclusion of last year. We didn't know he was coming; he turned up towards the end. When he stood up, with his big smile, he encouraged us all and he wished us all well. We knew he was battling at that time, yet he took that time to come in and speak with us and share with us, again, another encouraging word.
I quote from this book that Jim's written, from page 131, 'It is a moral failure of the highest order to expect the spirit and blood of the nation will act as a substitute for proper preparations to face evil in the world.' Australia must band together, and we need to heed Senator Molan's warning. With the Indo-Pacific region in a constant state of instability, come rail, hail or shine Australia must be preprepared, be ready and able. As President Reagan once remarked:
Heroes come when they're needed; great men step forward when courage seems in short supply.
Jim was not in short supply of courage. Vale, Jim Molan.
I, too, rise to offer my condolences to Senator Jim Molan's family on the passing of a very great Australian, a friend, a colleague. He was someone who we could always approach with confidence, knowing that our interactions with him would always help inspire us to make the right decisions in this place, given his depth of experience both in the military and in life in general.
We have heard today, on many occasions, about Jim and his extraordinary life, his life of service, his dedication to this great country, his dedication through his military career and his public life as a senator on and off on a couple of occasions. But, above all, he was a loving husband, a father and a grandfather.
I was at his funeral a few weeks ago. Sadly, it's at funerals where you get to know someone a bit more. I wish—as probably everyone in this place does—to really get to know all our colleagues in this place. Jim was certainly someone who loved his family. He put his family first, and he tried to shield them from his own battles. The one thing I did take away from that service was he genuinely did put his family first. There are certainly a lot of lessons we could all learn from Jim's life.
Apart from, obviously, serving his nation with great distinction, as we've heard, in Papua New Guinea and being made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his service in Indonesia and East Timor, he was the chief of the operations of the coalition forces in Iraq, which was quite a defining moment for, I think, our military. From a number of people I've talk to, particularly those in the Army who served alongside Jim, the soldiers' general, as he's been referred to, I really took away the impact that this great man has had on so many lives. People looked up to Jim as a role model. I know a number of his former staff, particularly those who my office has interacted with, could only say great things about Jim and his leadership. Quite frankly, it is such a loss to not have Jim in this place, but his memory and, in some ways, his ghost will always be here. I'll always remember the conversations that I had with Jim, particularly one afternoon when I delivered a speech on the subject of China and their human rights abuses. Jim came up to me afterwards to have a chat, and I thought, 'Geez, this will go one of two ways: either he's going to have a go at me for not going hard enough or he's going to say, "Well done, mate".' He did compliment me on my remarks about the shocking abuses that the authoritarian regime conducts on its people and a number of other minorities.
Despite retiring from the Defence Force back in July 2008, Jim remained deeply engaged in the national defence conversation. As Senator O'Sullivan rightly pointed out, there are several books that he wrote, opinion pieces, and many interviews on Sky News and with other broadcasters, but he was always very passionate about the security of our country. Why? Because of his family and the safety of his family and his grandchildren. He wanted to make sure that future generations of Australians could live and really enjoy the freedoms and values that people like Jim and others in our military have defended in many wars for many, many decades. Always at the forefront was family, as it should be.
Defence remained a key focus for Jim after his election to this place in 2017, and we were fortunate to have someone who was so dedicated to national security present here in this chamber. While there was a big focus on national security, we've also heard he made such a large and lasting contribution on so many other issues in this place, particularly around stillbirth research—I know a number of my colleagues and those opposite have touched on this at great length—and also on education. He was a big believer in making sure that the next generation of Australians are entitled to and have the right to be educated and to have access to good education, because the more educated we are, the better outcomes this country will have, and we will be a smarter, cleverer and much more productive country in the long haul.
I pay tribute to his family who are here today. Jim was a man of conviction. He was a great Australian and a very fierce advocate for the people of the state of New South Wales. Despite him and I having argy-bargies about me always going for Queensland in State of Origin, while clearly he would go for the Blues, he was a great man, and I was really saddened to learn about his death when I was over in Washington last month with a number of my colleagues here in the Senate and in the other place on a delegation to the United States—funnily enough, on matters relating to foreign affairs and defence. We were all taken aback by the fact that Jim had passed.
I want to touch on his recent book, titled Danger on Our Doorstep. Now, I know there has been a bit of contribution on this, but from my point of view he put forward very good views about the prospect of conflict in our region. It was a real wake-up call—and an honest wake-up call—that this country needs to take seriously. It's all well and good to rely on allies, as we have done for many decades, but we as a nation need to stand on our two feet. We are a country that is getting closer to 30 million in population, and we should be able to protect ourselves, or at least have deterrents in place not just against other countries like China or others but also to make sure we are in a strong position so that the worst possible outcome doesn't really happen—and, if it does happen, that at least we can defend ourselves. We know that we can put up a fight. His book went to the heart of the issues at play at the moment that we are all seeing in the media. He did this while undergoing cancer treatment, and it really is remarkable for someone who went through that. The security of our nation was never far from his mind, despite all the health issues he was going through.
In the most recent round of estimates, I remember him chairing the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, and seeing Jim walk in, with that big smile that we all remember. For him to have the ability to put forward that line of questioning to the department officials, Minister Wong and the others that were present at the table, for me, will always remain, to my mind, who that man was: a great Australian who was always committed to the cause right till the end. Certainly that big smile will never really leave me. I wish we had more people like him in this place.
I want to pass on my condolences to Jim's family: to his wife, his children and his grandchildren. He was a man of great gratitude, as we heard at his funeral service. Vale, Jim. We'll miss you, mate.
I'd like to offer my condolences to the Molan family and I'd like to associate myself with the remarks today, particularly those of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I won't seek to run through the very significant professional and personal achievements of senator Molan, or 'Jim', as he's better known to us here. I will say that I always thought we were very fortunate to have someone who had done so much put themselves forward as a candidate for public office.
There is no doubt that Jim was a great asset not only to the country and the state but also to the Liberal Party. He was one of the best-known people in the Liberal Party and he was widely loved by people who knew him. The most important thing that I reflected on when I went to his service a couple of weeks ago at Duntroon was that this was a person that had had a huge impact on the country. He had given extraordinary service, but he had had an impact, and that was very profound.
On the personal side, I got to know Jim pretty well. We sat together here and we had many years of interaction through the Liberal Party in New South Wales. On one of the strange assignments I had in 2017, I was asked to bring together an online newsletter for the Liberal Party, and I approached Jim about whether he would write some articles about the world we live in and the role of the armed forces and the like. His first question was, 'Is this for young people?' And it was for young people. He was very committed to educating younger people. He was interested in young people. He was always interested in the future. He had no time for tiddlywinks. He was not interested in the charades we go through here in the Senate sometimes. He was always focused on the big issues. I think he was at times frustrated that so much of the time here was spent on tiddling things and was wasted. He was a man on a mission who wanted to spend his time wisely, and he did. He was never one for the talking points. He has been able to achieve a very rare political feat, which is to be wildly popular with the rank and file of the Liberal Party but his own man every single day. He was never one for the talking points.
He had a huge impact on Australia. He was a great asset to the country and to our state and to our party. He was a very warm and kind person. I found him to be incredibly kind. He was the sort of person who, if something bad happened to someone, would ring that person and say, 'I'm here for you,' or, 'I know that's happened and I'm available to speak to you,' and I know that because he called me on many difficult occasions. He was a very good man. So I wanted to pass on my deepest condolences to his family.
It is with great sadness that I rise to speak on the passing of Senator Jim Molan. While I only knew Jim for a short time, it was apparent that he was a man of integrity who cared deeply for his country and its future. He was incredibly driven to ensure that, as a nation, Australia was self-resilient not just in defence but in all aspects of society. He was not driven by the flawed ideologies of the chattering classes. Instead, he wanted Australia to control its own security, infrastructure, manufacturing and supply lines. His thinking was much closer to the protectionist views of Deakin and Menzies, who understood the importance of nation building and self-reliance. Jim had a distinguished career in the Army, where he served his country with distinction.
I was fortunate enough to meet him first at an LNP event where he was the guest speaker. He flew up to Queensland to support a candidate who served under him in the Iraq War and later as his aide-de-camp. It speaks to the character of Jim that, regardless of his rank, he never had any tickets on himself. I wasn't surprised to hear his family and friends comment at his funeral that Jim didn't like ceremonies. That seemed to correspond with my brief knowledge of him—that he was more driven by outcomes than accolade or pretentious posturing.
I was much more surprised to hear his family talk about his disdain for rules that didn't make sense, given Jim had risen so far in the military. It speaks to the affable and constructive nature of Jim that he was able to become a major general in the Army while also being able to question rules that didn't seem right. In this day and age, it's rare to see people who question a narrative climb so high in any organisation. It's an indication of how Jim could persuade people to his way of thinking without burning bridges.
In my conversations with him, Jim was disappointed that Western leaders allowed the wars in the Middle East to go for so long when there was clearly no strategic objective. He made it quite clear that it only lowered troop morale and diverted funding and attention from the more serious threats in the Pacific. It was a view that I agreed with entirely.
Jim played an instrumental part in stopping the boats during the first year of the Abbott government. It is estimated that over a thousand people lost their lives at sea trying to enter Australia. While many were sceptical that it could be done, it speaks to the ability of Jim, who played an instrumental part in making it happen. Originally scorned by many opposite and in other Western countries, the policy is now the benchmark by which to prevent illegal arrivals. Far from being a callous policy, as many critics like to assert, it has prevented many people from drowning at sea.
The greatest tribute I can give to Jim is to continue his goal to ensure that Australia is prepared for future challenges. Australia needs to be more self-resilient in its defence capabilities that focus on our region. It's time that the Department of Defence listened to his concerns that Australia has no integrated national security strategy focused on defending Australia and delivered one. As politicians, we should all mirror his ability for sound diplomacy, his integrity and his can-do attitude.
My condolences go to his family and many friends. Rest in peace, Jim.
To Anne, Felicity, Erin, Sarah and Michael, I send my heartfelt condolences and deepest wishes.
While Jim was a dedicated servant of Australia, there's absolutely no-one who would not agree that Australia is better off for Jim's contributions to public life. Jim, yes, served the nation in the Australian Army and rose to the rank of Major General, serving as Chief of Operations for the coalition forces in Iraq, which was no small feat, and he certainly left his mark.
Before that he spent his time in Papua New Guinea working with police and security forces, in Jakarta when Suharto fell and in East Timor in negotiations with the local armed militia before the Australian Army arrived—efforts that no doubt saved many, many lives. The stories that have been told of his exploits while on these difficult postings leave little to the imagination; he was nothing but a true Australian hero who asked not for thanks but, simply, what more he could do for the people of Australia.
Jim was always full of surprises in the roughly three years I knew him. He always surprised me. I remember, not long after he re-joined the Senate, we were sitting in the other place for a joint sitting where the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, addressed us. We're all sitting there with our translation earpieces on, and I see Jim take his off. He was just listening along and nodding like he knew what was going on. I gave him a shove in the ribs with my elbow and said, 'Do you speak Bahasa?' and he went: 'Yes, of course I do. I spent three years there,' or five years—forgive me if I can't remember what it was. He was always full of those sorts of surprises, such was the depth of his talent.
As a realist, Jim was well aware of both our strengths and our vulnerabilities in the world, and he worked until the end to ensure that those vulnerabilities were fixed. This meant that, after giving everything to serve the nation in the army, he decided it wasn't enough and chose to serve in public life in many other ways—finally as a senator for New South Wales—rather than take the retirement he so richly deserved. Many senators are elected to this chamber; however, few, if any, will make as great an impact on public debate as Senator Jim Molan did.
Jim was many things, but one thing that I admired most about him was his commitment to his values and his application of these values towards improving Australian life. Jim once said, 'Our values are what make us strong, bring us together and set us apart from other nations,' and, 'The values we hold as a nation must be reflected in the actions of our military, both at home and abroad.'
Sharing a passion with Jim in the defence space meant we got to spend a lot of time together talking, debating, exchanging ideas and, ultimately, disagreeing on a number of points—but very few. The great thing about Jim was that you could do this; you could disagree in a respectful manner and continue being friends, which is a trait that the world needs more of, not less. Jim, you were, if nothing else, a great friend.
One of the things we agreed on is that Australia is woefully underprepared for a war—a war likely not of our making but one we will likely have to fight, where standing by won't be an option. A war in the region doesn't have to include an invasion of our land to be catastrophic to our way of life. That all or at least most of our seaborne trade would be affected would bring about a catastrophic effect on Australia's economy and our way of life that only an invasion would surpass. As I said, we both thought that this was unlikely. So our part in any war will most likely be to aid allies to keep our sea lines of communication open. How we do that is the challenge that Jim set us all.
His commitment to this would be almost unrivalled. While battling cancer, he still managed to be engaged in all of his parliamentary duties or most thereof—even writing and releasing a book last year. If you haven't read it, you are really letting yourself down. It is such a well-written book on a topic he knows so well, and I recommend it to everyone. Those who knew him know that as soon as parliament was done and he was finished battling other members and senators of parliament, on both sides, he loved to hit the road and be out in the community and talking to constituents. But through all of this he managed to raise and be there for a family that loved him deeply and whom he loved deeply in return.
In Jim's first speech he spoke of four lessons that he learned from his 40 years in the military that he thought were important enough to bring into politics and wider social life, and I think that they're important to repeat on this occasion:
First, leadership is everything .
… Second , Australia brings its unique culture into its military. Blind obedience to orders or authorit y does not make good soldiers ; nor does it make good citizens .
… Third, as a leader, once you find someone who knows what they are doing , get out of the way.
… F ourth, stereotypes are invariably wrong.
As a man that achieved more than most of us mortals could ever hope to achieve, his words ring just as true as when he first spoke them. Jim truly was a giant of Australian life, and we are surely worse off without him. He will be greatly missed in these halls, and I know I will feel his loss personally.
The last meeting I had with Jim was after a coalition defence policy committee meeting, a committee that I chair and that he always attended—or, certainly, as much as he could. His last words to me were, 'Vannie, keep up the fight.' Vale, Jim.
My interaction with Senator Jim Molan reminds me that it's not how long you have but what you do with the time you have. I came into the Senate on 1 July 2022, so I had just a few interactions with Senator Molan, but he did leave a big impression. I immediately understood that he was a deep listener and a respectful responder. His service with distinction meant I already knew he had courage. I learnt from that, in that brief time that I had with him, that his special gift was also helping others to recognise their own courage and the immense potential in themselves.
Thank you to his family for sharing him with us; for sharing him with those in the Defence Force that relied on his leadership; and for sharing Senator Molan with this parliament and with Australia.
It is with sadness that I rise to speak on the condolence motion for my colleague, Senator Andrew James Molan. I wish to express to the Senate my appreciation to Jim for his service to this place and to the nation. I especially thank him for his kind and gracious welcome extended to me when I arrived in the Senate from South Australia. I thank him for his friendship and his wisdom. I will miss him, and I bid him farewell. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Rest in peace, Jim.
I ask senators to join in a moment of silence to acknowledge the passing of Senator Molan, to remember the contribution which he made to the Senate and to signify assent to the motion.
Question agreed to, honourable senators joining in a moment of silence.