Condolence motion

6 February 2023

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.