Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I want to thank the Prime Minister for his fine and gracious words.
And I join with him in honouring the life of Jim Molan AO DSC.
It’s an honour to have the Molan family with us today in this parliament.
For all of those who attended Jim’s funeral on the 25th of January, many stories were told about his life and his legacy.
One of the most touching stories was how Jim met Anne at a cadet dance in Jim’s first year at Duntroon.
That evening, after the dance, Anne enthusiastically told her mother about the young man who had left quite an impression – about how much she liked him and that he said he would call her.
Anne’s mother somewhat provocatively said, but protectively, I suppose at the same time, ‘they all say that.’
But the next morning, true to his word, Jim made his way to the public telephone at the RMC shops.
Such was the start of a 55-year love story – from boyfriend and girlfriend, to husband and wife, to father and mother.
One does not have to spend much time around Jim and Anne’s wonderful children – Sarah, Erin, Felicity and Michael – to see the influence of their parents.
The Molan family story is certainly one of the clearest examples of parents shaping their children, and children, in turn, shaping their parents.
Jim cherished his roles as a father, as a husband, as a grandfather and brother above all else.
And today, we celebrate him in the round.
The family man, the soldier, the diplomat, the adviser, the politician, the author and the commentator.
There was an interplay in all that he was.
Those who knew Jim could see the father’s care in the general.
The general’s mind in the writer.
The writer’s knowledge in the senator.
And the senator’s love in the family man.
Jim considered himself to be an ordinary Australian.
But he had an extraordinary life.
He was a man who was at the centre of so many pivotal events.
Events which have shaped our nation, the region and of course the world.
Papua New Guinea’s independence.
The fall of Suharto in Indonesia.
Evacuations from the Solomon Islands.
Peacekeeping in East Timor.
Counter-insurgency in Iraq.
Illegal maritime arrivals on our border.
And the rise of China.
Very few Australians could claim to have lived as fully as Jim Molan.
Saw what Jim saw.
Or engaged with the times as Jim engaged with them.
He was a man thrust into some of the most difficult and challenging circumstances.
He was in the middle of war and bloodshed.
He witnessed suffering and the struggle for democracy.
He saw, firsthand, what we would call the ‘darker side of humanity’.
Those experiences could have made him angry and cynical.
Or at the very least, aloof.
But for all that Jim encountered, he was kind and considerate.
Whether you knew Jim – or met him for the first time – he drew you in immediately with his warm and captivating quality.
In turn, you always had Jim’s undivided attention.
He always displayed generosity to the views of others.
Even to those with whom he disagreed.
He was a gentleman with an unfailingly courteous manner.
He was an optimist about humanity.
That speaks volumes about the mettle of his character and the kindness in his heart.
Jim joined the Australian Army upon finishing school.
His military career saw him rise swiftly through the ranks to ultimately become a Major-General.
He performed a variety of combat, diplomatic and leadership roles on deployment in our region and beyond.
For his work in Indonesia and East Timor, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.
For the critical role he played in Iraq, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit by the Australian and US governments respectively.
As the Chief of Operations for the coalition forces, Jim was instrumental in repelling insurgents and ensuring the security of Iraq’s transport and infrastructure.
Jim retired from the military in 2008.
And instead of being fired upon in battle, he would soon find himself battling fires.
He volunteered for his local firefighting brigade.
He flew rescue and water-bombing missions, drawing on his experience as a military helicopter pilot.
And in 2011, he was appointed as the Director of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre.
Perhaps unexpectedly, he was contacted by then Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, to start to work on a policy to stop the boats.
After the Coalition was returned to Government, Prime Minister Abbott appointed Jim as his Special Envoy.
With Scott Morrison, they set about putting policy into practice and Operation Sovereign Borders had its expected detractors but one of its architects was Jim Molan and he helped to break the people smugglers’ business model to prevent further tragic deaths of asylum seekers at sea, even to this very day, and to restore the integrity of Australia’s maritime security.
The naysayers were proved wrong. Indeed, the policy that Jim co-designed has not escaped the attention of leaders in Europe. Who, to this day contend with the same wicked problem of people smuggling.
In 2014, Jim was appointed as a Special Adviser to the Defence Minister and provided advice on the 2016 Defence White Paper.
He was proud of the changes it had on defence industry, technology and force structure.
His passion for national security issues, his admiration for our nation and his desire to represent the aspirations of Australians all whet his appetite for politics.
Twice he ran as a Liberal Senator for New South Wales. Twice he proved to be immensely popular among the party’s rank and file. Twice he missed out, having been placed in unwinnable positions on the ticket.
But twice he would be elected – filling vacancies left by Fiona Nash in 2017 and Arthur Sinodinos in 2019.
In his maiden speech, Jim’s self-deprecating sense of humour was on show.
Speaking after Senator Steele-John – the youngest Senator to be elected – Jim said;
‘I am definitely not competing with him on that issue! I’m proud to be a member of the fastest growing demographic in this country.’
Jim brought his years of experience and wisdom to the role. Particularly as a member of the Joint Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade as well as Migration.
He also used his time as a Senator to champion many causes. He supported our veterans – especially those transitioning to civilian life. He advanced research and awareness in the areas of stillbirths, online safety and prostate cancer.
In all that he did, Jim fought hard, decently and well.
Whether in khaki abroad or wearing a suit on the Senate floor, Jim uttered his convictions with courage.
He said that ‘if opponents don’t speak against you, you are probably not standing up for enough.’
Jim was never afraid to utter his centre-right beliefs.
In a column in 2018, he wrote:
‘One great strength of Australia is its natural conservatism.
That conservatism does not reside only with right-of-centre parties or groups, but resides quietly in many areas of Australian society.
Australians, unlike some Australian governments, will not be panicked into ill-considered change.’
He went on to say:
‘We may not be a perfect society but, having travelled widely, I have yet to find a better one in the world…you have a better chance of succeeding in Australia through hard, honest work than anywhere else.’
Those words speak to Jim Molan the patriot.
He was a man who knew what was ‘valuable in our magnificent society’, as he put it.
Who knew it needed to be defended – as he put it – ‘from the assaults of the pessimists and the ideologues.’
Jim’s love of country, of democracy, and of peace, was why he spoke and wrote so often about the threats facing Australia, our region and our world.
This was why he was a recognisable face on television, his voice compelling on podcasts and his words so persuasive in newspapers.
The mind of a military man – one with tactical, operational and strategic insights – was on show in his bestseller, Running the War in Iraq.
But it’s his final book – Danger On Our Doorstep – for which Jim will be most remembered.
It’s a warning to the present about China’s ambitions and military build-up.
A chilling assessment to ensure we don’t drift into complacency or sleepwalk into disaster.
His words are not those of a China hawk.
They’re the words of a realist with a deep historical appreciation and ability to read the world.
Testimony to his fortitude, Jim wrote that masterpiece during his battle with cancer.
It was in the final chapter of his book that Jim reiterated his long-held view and ambition for Australian government:
To develop a comprehensive National Security Strategy to bolster our national resilience and self-reliance.
He often thought about the future, and when he wrote Danger On Our Doorstep, I’m sure he was thinking about his children and grandchildren that he loved so much.
That they will grow up in a better world than the one he knew.
For the boy that dreamt of being a soldier, Jim said that Australia’s servicemen and women ‘represent everything that is good about Australia because they are Australian.’
In farewelling Jim, we can say that he represented everything great about Australia because he was not just an Australian – he was one of our greatest Australians.
Jim was immensely popular and respected by his colleagues and the broader Liberal Party
On behalf of the Coalition, I offer my heartfelt condolences to our colleagues and our Party members, to his friends and to his family.
But especially, to his wife Anne; daughters Sarah, Erin and Felicity; son Michael; and five grandchildren.
May he rest in peace.