Soldier on for shot at politics

OPINION – Ross Eastgate – Townsville Bulletin 31 March 2016

IN many democratic societies the path from military service into parliament is one well trodden.

Popular military commanders, particularly if they have been victorious have translated that success into political opportunity.

The Duke of Wellington enjoyed a long political association with both the Irish and English parliaments and was briefly prime minister.

General Eisenhower built on his reputation as supreme Allied commander in Europe in World War II to become a popular US president.

Australia’s first VC recipient Neville Howse served in Australia’s federal parliament, one of a number of Gallipoli veterans who became politicians, including British PM Clement Atlee.

Many Australian veterans of both world wars served in various parliaments and we are again seeing veterans making their political mark with varying degrees of influence and representing most political interests.

One whose political aspirations appear to have been temporarily stymied is former major general Jim Molan who has been relegated to the third probably unwinnable spot on the NSW Liberal senate ticket thanks to ongoing shenanigans in that party in that state.

Anyone who knows Molan understands he is a considered but determined individual who would bring the same robust approach to politics he demonstrated throughout his military career.

Molan graduated from Duntroon just as what commentators are describing as The Long Peace began post-Australia’s Vietnam involvement.

 He served as platoon commander in the Pacific Islands Regiment in PNG on the cusp of that country’s independence before training as a pilot in the mid-1970s when the army needed to fill a short-term capability gap.
Along the way he completed degrees in arts and economics.

Many thought then his infantry career had stalled when he also undertook Indonesian language studies at Point Cook in Victoria after completing his basic flying training at the same RAAF base.

Molan did not serve in an Australian regular infantry battalion until a senior captain and did not command a company, an unusual career path even in a peacetime army.

Those who wrote him off then underestimated his drive not to mention ambition.

Few officers of his generation have a better grasp of weapons and tactics but he also impressed as a military diplomat when posted to Indonesia.

He largely avoided serving in Canberra, regarded as a necessity for ambitious officers but commanded 6RAR, for which service particularly during the 1990 Charleville floods he was appointed member of the Order of Australia.

Molan commanded the 1st Brigade as it relocated from Holsworthy to Darwin before returning to Indonesia as defence attache during the period INTERFET deployed to East Timor.

After commanding 1st Division, Molan deployed to Iraq as Chief of Operations in the Multinational Force HQ.

Molan has been a vocal critic of defence policy since leaving the army and although aligned with the Liberal party, spectacularly resigned as an adviser to Liberal defence minister David Johnson, expressing dissatisfaction with the minister’s performance.

Internal Liberal party machinations may have momentarily stalled his senate aspirations but no one should write him off just yet.


Comment Ted Chitham. Jim is a staunch and active supporter of the defence community especially on veterans’ matters. His views are actively sought by the National media. See his recent appearance on last Tuesday’s Sky News TV Richo + Jones program

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