Subjects: Senator Jim Molan AO DSC.
As I said this morning, we got the news that a giant of a man, Jim Molan, had passed away at the age of 72. I had known Jim for quite a number of years. I sort his counsel on a number of matters. He was always a lot wiser than me, a lot smarter than me, and a thoroughly decent and loving man.
Of course, I had the benefit of working with his beautiful daughter, Erin on The Continuous Call Team for quite a number of years as well. She’s a fantastic mentor to a whole range of young women. She’s a fantastic young woman, as would be reflected on the fact that her father was Jim and mum is Anne.
Peter Dutton was able to provide a magnificent tribute to the late Jim Molan this morning. I’ve invited the Federal Opposition Leader on the program.
Peter, good morning to you.
Good morning Ray.
It’s just hard to quantify. I mean, there’ll be young people out there saying ‘oh, 72 is pretty good’. I’m 68 mate, I don’t feel very old, and Jim wasn’t very old by modern day standards. He had a lot of life still left in him.
He certainly did Ray. I think that’s always the hardest thing when you see somebody, particularly given that Jim’s health hadn’t been good for a long period of time really, and his family had lived through that with him and the bravery that he showed in some pretty down times over the last couple of years is quite remarkable, and it just went to the core of who he was as a bloke and his decency. He never complained. He led a full life, but it is always sad, as you say, when somebody’s taken earlier than they should have been, and particularly when they’re a person of Jim’s character and it’s a sad day for our country because he’s a remarkable individual, and he’s given more to our country than most of us could ever imagine.
His service in uniform to our country was so distinguished and remarkable, and we shouldn’t take that for granted, as well. He obviously did great work in the Senate, but he was a remarkable soldier, and he was a soldier’s soldier and incredibly well respected. Wherever you went with him diggers would come up and just want to shake his hand. He was just a remarkable person and well respected and admired around the country.
You think of all the people the Americans could have appointed of their own to look after all the forces in the Middle East, and they said, ‘no, there’s one man to do it, that’s Jim Molan’. A testimony and of course, received a great honour via the American government himself.
He did. He got the Legion of Merit awarded from the US government. He was the Chief of Operations for the Coalition forces in Iraq and he received from the Australian Government, the Distinguished Service Cross, which is an incredibly proud honour, and I know something he was very proud of. But he couldn’t have done any of that without Anne, and as we know, those men and women who serve in uniform just can’t do the job given the amount of time they’re away from their families, without the support of a great partner and he just had a beautiful wife and beautiful children and grandchildren. I saw them in Parliament House not too long ago at Jim’s book launch and they were all there and just a really tight group and a beautiful family.
So, what you saw – his decency in public – was reflected in his life as a family man as well, which I think is the greatest compliment you can pay someone, and he loved his family more than anything else, and he was a great patriot, and we will miss him dearly.
I was thinking this morning, and I knew he had been gravely ill and Erin has been away from her media duties, for obvious reasons.
I was thinking this morning, how do you quantify and put into words to people who didn’t know him, as someone who did know him, what sort of a feller he was? You think of all those distinguished awards, his distinguished service in the armed services, then in politics, and you think, ‘well, how do you relay that to people – the knockabouts who maybe listen to the program and he was a knockabout. I mean, a very distinguished knockabout, but he was a bloke that could talk to anyone at any level.
Whether you were a wharf labourer, or someone of high rank in the army or high rank in political circles, he just had that touch about him that put people at ease – at all walks of life – and I think in paying tribute to him, I wanted to convey to people that what you saw with him on TV, heard on radio, or saw in Parliament, was a mere reflection of the sort of feller he was if you happened to run into him at the supermarket or on the street. He always had time for everyone. He would engage with people and even if he was engaged in, I guess, at different stages, the most uninteresting conversation in the world, he would engage that person and make them think they were the most important person in the world.
Yeah, I think that’s well said mate. He was a real gentleman, and so, on top of the fact that he had a genuine interest in people and what they were saying, and I think he’s mind was just so big – the ability to think strategically – he was a big thinker on China and wrote a book recently and has contributed a lot to the public debate about just the realities of the world in which we live today, and the likely threats over the course of the next decade or two.
He had that real, gentlemanly, honourable feature about him, that you would have seen in a granddad growing up or the bloke next door who, they might have been a bit older than your father, but was just revered, and he just oozed that decency. I think people naturally rotated to him and felt that he gave them a fair hearing, even if he didn’t agree with what they were saying, as you point out, but he was able to engage in any conversation, contribute to every debate, and he did it with an air of authority.
He started in the army when he left school, so he had that training I suppose from a very early age. He was just genuine in the way in which he engaged with people. There was no front, as you say, when he got in front of the camera. It was just who he was in private. He was a no nonsense sort of bloke as well. Like most military people, he takes things seriously and there are only so many hours in the day, so I didn’t want to muck around, but I think he contributed a lot.
Just go back to Operation Sovereign Borders. Now I used to sit here blowing a horn during the days of the Labor government, and Chris Bowen and Kevin Rudd and, you know, they couldn’t stop the boats. They just couldn’t stop them. Tens of thousands of people arriving, and the Abbott Government came to power and said, ‘we’ll stop the boats’, but it couldn’t have happened, as I understand it, without Jim Molan being part of the deal. Would that be a fair analysis?
That’s completely accurate. So Tony Abbott obviously had engaged Jim because he was known to Tony and he was appointed as a Special Envoy and he really was, you know, the architect of Sovereign Borders.
I mean it helped break the people smugglers business model. It stopped the deaths at sea, and he was rightly proud of what we had been able to achieve. We never want to see those boats restart, and there are a lot of public servants, a lot of good public servants, but a lot of public servants that thought it just couldn’t be done.
When Tony Abbott became Prime Minister and Scott Morrison was his Minister, and with Jim in the background as well, they were able to drive it and to tell the public service that that was the will and the direction of the incoming government and what had happened before in the Rudd-Gillard years, was a travesty with so many people drowning at sea, and we wanted that to stop.
Sometimes public servants can execute very well, what you ask them to do, and other times they can run around in circles and try and run the clock down, but they were never allowed to do that and Jim was a main driver and the thought piece behind Operation Sovereign Borders, looking at the diplomacy with other countries, looking at the unintended consequences, the trading relationships and the general dynamic within the region; I mean all of that had to be distilled down into a policy that was going to stop the boats, but not disrupt friendships and important relationships with other countries and leaders. He just calibrated that perfectly and it was executed, as we know, with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I think we should be proud of the fact that even to this day, those boats haven’t restarted and let’s hope and pray they never do.
I’ll leave it this way. We’re broadcasting into Canberra right at the moment on Capital Radio and I’ve got a note from the Carter family:
‘Dear Mr Hadley,
For our family, it was a privilege to have Jim Molan, Anne, their children as neighbours for a number of years. Their children played on a regular basis with my two children.
I woke up this morning and hear the sad news of Jim’s passing. It’s a huge loss to his family and our beautiful country. He was everything good that Australia stood for. His life was well lived.
For those of us who knew him personally as we did, and achieved what he did, he will be greatly missed. Our love and thoughts are with the family.
RIP, a great man.
We love you, the Carter family.’
A lovely tribute from their neighbours, from the time they spent in Canberra.
I’ll talk to you again on Thursday, on a different note, but I appreciate your time this morning.
Thanks very much.
Thank you mate, take care.