It’s a testament to both the enormity of the contribution he made and the sheer decency of his nature that so many on both sides of the House have sought to contribute to this condolence motion on the passing of the great Jim Molan. I certainly wanted to ensure that I added my voice, and that of my community on the southern Gold Coast, to those paying tribute to a thorough gentleman and a true patriot.
Jim worked tirelessly in the national interest for so many decades, serving our nation on the battlefield, in the community and in the political arena. Many people I have spoken with in the weeks since Jim’s passing have remarked on what an enormous loss to our nation it is that we won’t have his wise counsel for the challenging times to come.
Jim understood the risks to our national security and our sovereignty, and he had a very honest and practical approach to being realistically prepared to deal with the ever-evolving geopolitical landscape. He was a realist about the times we live in, but, as the leader has described him, Jim was an optimist about humanity. That’s why I think there has been such an outpouring of warmth and respect for him. He cared about people and believed in the goodness of humanity. That was the hallmark of his service and what helped drive him to contribute to his community and to our nation.
Jim had a very distinguished military career which saw him rise to the rank of Major General. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit by the Australian and US governments respectively, adding to the Order of Australia he received for his earlier service in Indonesia and in East Timor. There have been countless stories of Jim’s bravery, compassion and unflinching leadership during his decades serving our nation in the Army.
Jim’s contribution I am most familiar with is the work that he did following the coalition’s return to government in 2013, when Jim was asked by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to develop Operation Sovereign Borders. He achieved what at the time was thought impossible by many in politics and in the media: he stopped the boats. Now is not the time to make political points but it is instructive that we remember the significance of what was achieved with Operation Sovereign Borders after a flood of more than 820 illegal boats and over 50,000 unauthorised arrivals. With his methodical approach and wealth of experience, Jim worked with the Australian government to break the people smugglers’ business model, prevent further tragic deaths of asylum seekers at sea and restore the integrity of Australia’s maritime security. It is undoubtedly one of the most significant policy successes in our nation’s history. Jim was so humble and he was kind when he discussed these issues with my staff and also with me, when I was home affairs minister, and while we worked to protect the integrity of the system he actually developed. That is the measure of a very remarkable man.
Jim faced many tough situations in his lifetime. He never ever let ego get in the way of outcome and he never ever complained. We all know that politics can be a very brutal business but it is not surprising, given what he had faced outside the parliament, that Jim took the ups and downs of politics in his stride.
One of the things I was, and remain, very pleased about was that he was ultimately returned to the Senate. He was one of the most talented and dedicated people to ever grace that chamber. On behalf of my local community, I thank Jim and acknowledge his massive contribution to our nation. I also offer heartfelt condolences to Jim’s family—his loving wife, Anne; his daughters Sarah, Erin and Felicity, and his son, Michael; and his five grandchildren. To them I say: your loss is immense but may you all find some comfort in the enormous respect, regard and fondness expressed in this debate for Jim. Our nation will be forever indebted to Jim and his contribution. May we always remember and may he rest in peace.