Molan a giant Aussie & true battler

by SEAN BURKE – JIM Molan was never one to back down from a battle. His fighting spirit and self-awareness wouldn’t allow it. 

He lived his life fighting. Wars, political Party factions, elections and, eventually, personal illness. 

Molan lived a full life and achieved more than any one person could hope for. He also holds the record as the most voted-for candidate in Australian political history.

The sitting Senator and former Army Major General died yesterday aged 72 after a two-year battle with cancer.

While those of us who knew him were aware of his condition, his death nonetheless came as a body blow.


We had assumed, wrongly, that the General would overcome this battle as he had so many before.

My first face-to-face “close contact” with Senator Molan occurred in early 2019 – months out from a federal election and only weeks after he’d been rolled in a deceptive Liberal Party preselection.

As a sitting Senator, he’d received factional assurances that his re-nomination would be supported.

Despite these commitments, Matthew Kean’s Left faction reneged, withdrawing its support without notice and dropping Senator Molan into an “unwinnable” fourth spot on the Coalition’s senate ballot.

Shortly after this betrayal I overheard one of Kean’s faction members gloating about their achievement in removing the sitting Senator.

“It wasn’t his turn!” she said. “It’s unfair that he was even in the Senate in the first place.”

This exchange removed any doubt that Liberal Party factions are purely self-interested – to the detriment of everyone and everything, including wider national interests.

Shortly before my first meeting with Senator Molan, I received an unexpected phone call from one of Australia’s great political campaign tacticians, Walter Villatora.

He’d found a new cause, he said, and wanted to do the impossible. (“Um… okay!?”)

As president of Tony Abbott’s Federal Electoral Conference, Villatora had run many successful election campaigns for both Abbott and Mike Baird.


Along with Jim Molan, Villatora was the driving force behind the NSW Liberal Party’s 2017 democratic reform movement, which delivered preselection plebiscites to all Party members.

A Left faction take-over of Mr Abbott’s Conference in September 2018, however, saw Villatora removed as president.

Both he and his experienced campaign team were effectively sidelined – and ultimately excluded from Tony Abbott’s 2019 lost re-election campaign.

Villatora and his team unexpectedly found themselves in an election year without a job – until Senator Molan telephoned.

Our first meeting was an early-morning Sunday breakfast in Sydney’s CBD. It was run with military precision.

Seven of us, including the Senator, drew up a plan we hoped would see his return to office.

We had about six months to D-Day. We required a huge amount of funding, an army of volunteers, significant media attention and State-wide logistical coverage.

We’d estimated Jim would require between 140,000 and 150,000 “below-the-line” first preference votes to stand a chance. Such a feat had never before been achieved in Australian electoral history.

The highest below-the-line vote received in the previous 2016 federal election was little more than 10,000 (unsurprisingly, by Jim Molan).


But Senator Molan was unfazed and he and Villatora hatched their plan.

Funds were quickly raised, multiple “rallying” events were organised for Jim – with volunteers pouring in as a result – and teams of campaigners were established across NSW.

As for media coverage, Senator Molan became a household name – everyone was talking about him. And most of them glowingly.

Even Australians who lived outside NSW – and, therefore, unable to vote for him – called to offer their moral support.

The campaign consumed us. We would regularly work around the clock, all the while understanding we faced an almost impossible task.

Our motivation came from knowing we had a good candidate, someone who genuinely loved Australia, a person of integrity.

And with his 137,325 first preference votes, Australians agreed.

Senator Jim Molan AO DSC lived a full life and achieved more than any one person could hope for.

I’m privileged to have played a small part in just one of his many achievements – that of holding the record as the most voted-for candidate in Australian political history.PC

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH:  Jim Molan. (courtesy Yahoo7)

6 thoughts on “Molan a giant Aussie & true battler

  1. Jim was a true gentleman and a great Australian. As a nation we are all the poorer for his
    passing. Rest in Peace Jim

  2. There are few that will ever measure up to Jim , however, I hold my hopes out for Andrew Hastie who is a man cut of the same cloth and totally understands our defence needs.

    1. “There are few that will ever measure up to Jim […]”

      I would stand in the gap, but unfortunately I already have far too many fish to fry. (I’m tempted to say that, as implied by my comment, there are few that will ever measure up to me, but I’m far too humble too make such statements – axiomatic though they may be – and will content myself with leaving such observations to the readers).

    2. My thoughts exactly, Jim was a great man treated shabbily by the Once great Liberal party.

  3. Australian political history is littered with half hearted, compromising & self serving politicians. Someone like Jim Molan does not come along very often. I thank God for leaders like these. Leaders of character, of substance, of courage who are so often held back by spineless manipulating political enemies and also those who pretend to be friends. Labor and Liberal politicians, even Alex Hawke, my local member, fall into my first description. God save us from these selfish people who seek power purely for themselves and not for this country. Australia has been sold out over the decades by Labor & Liberal parties in thousands of ways, little bit by little bit until now, we can’t even defend ourselves. This is culpable neglect in a nation of 25 million people who are as wealthy as we are.

  4. As Winston Churchill famously observed, the graveyards of the world are full of indispensable men. Jim Molan was undoubtedly one such. His treatment by the Liberal Party was an utter disgrace and deeply humiliating for him. He bore this with good grace. Quite why such an outstanding contributor to political life should have struggled to win, and keep, a seat in the Senate can only be explained by the NSW Liberal Party factional warlords. It seems they preferred the presence of pliable non-entities to the talents of a genuinely great man.


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