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Picking up the mantle: Molan Jr challenges government with calls for national security strategy

Erin Molan, veteran journalist and daughter of the late major general and senator for NSW, Jim Molan, has issued a challenge to both sides of Australian politics to take our national security more seriously and stop treating the public like mugs.

Erin Molan, veteran journalist and daughter of the late major general and senator for NSW, Jim Molan, has issued a challenge to both sides of Australian politics to take our national security more seriously and stop treating the public like mugs.

National security is the first and most sacrosanct responsibility of any government, and in these increasingly perilous times, it is becoming more so.

However, while it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, the challenges are mounting and the window to embrace and capitalise on the opportunities transforming both the world and the Indo-Pacific is rapidly closing.


Capitalising on the opportunities, engaging successive generations of Australians, particularly the younger generation who are increasingly disconnected and disengaged from the future of the nation and its security.

By now, many engaged Australians will be accepting of the reality that the nation needs a more coherent and consistent response to said challenges, and to embrace the opportunities without veering into overly centralised planning that is anathema to the rugged individualism that once dominated Australian life and culture.

A long-time champion of such an approach was the late major general and senator for NSW, Jim Molan AO, DSC, who passionately advocated for the development and implementation of a cohesive, national security strategy (NSS) to engage the public and guide the nation through these perilous times.

Molan has been joined by the likes of Dr Ross Babbage (Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments) and Dr Peter Layton (Griffith Asia Institute) in this call and has now had his mantle picked up by his daughter, veteran journalist Erin Molan who has issued a challenge to Australia’s elected officials, among a scathing attack.

In a piece for The Daily Telegraph, titled, Lack of security strategy makes you feel very angry, Molan levelled an attack against Australia’s policymakers of both sides in light of the declining state of global security and stability.

“Our governments have failed us, successively, time after terrifying time. The most critical responsibility of any government is the safety of its people. They know there’s no point having cost of living sorted, enough housing and shelter and social cohesion, if we are dead or at risk of armed conflict,” she says in her opening salvo.

‘I’m no longer just concerned, I’m angry’

Like many Australians who have an even passing interest in international relations, politics and history, Molan points to the rapid deterioration of the post-Second World War global balance of power dependent upon a now ailing and divided United States, which is now at the very limits of its power.

Yet seemingly, for most Australian policymakers and the public, despite repeatedly being told we live in the most dangerous period in recent history – the managed decline of our nation, its economic opportunity, its national security, and social investment have largely been met with little-to-no meaningful, cohesive response (individual strategies and plans aside).

Molan stated, “Dad was the most experienced fighting general we had in this country. He had run wars. He was the chief of operations for the United States and Coalition Forces in Iraq. He was part of an inner circle of US generals and civilian leadership at the helm of the most powerful and influential nation on earth.

“Dad became borderline obsessed with developing a national security strategy (NSS) at the back end of his life because he knew how much it mattered and how inadequately prepared we were for what was to come. Notably, this was before the latest development in the war in the Middle East – the global situation is a lot more precarious now.

Going further, Molan stated, “He begged government to be given the opportunity to develop an NSS, much to the annoyance of many of those around him who didn’t think it mattered or that it mattered less than, say, escalating interest rates – well, we got them anyway... He was aware that not only did we not have the weaponry to repel or deter threats as a stand-alone nation but that, even if we did, our supply of fuel was so pitifully compromised that we wouldn’t be able to effectively utilise an arsenal of any size.”

In detailing this, Molan reiterated the precarious state of Australia’s national security, our defence capabilities and indeed, the dire state of the nation in general across every measure of national power, despite what we might be led to believe.

The real salt in the wound for Molan is as she detailed, “He took complex issues and made them easy to understand. He was able to explain to everyday Australians why this mattered and matter it does. Pity some of his colleagues didn’t feel the same. I used to get so upset when he’d tell me some of the ways he was treated during his time in Parliament.”

Molan added, “Now I’m no longer just concerned, I’m angry. I’m angry that we are in this position as a country. I’m angry that people who understood the threat and situation were ignored over and over and over.”

Now we must give credit where due, with the government’s Defence Strategic Review recommending the creation of a biannual national Defence strategy, more akin to the United States’ own National Defense Strategy released every four years, than the US National Security Strategy which is periodically developed by successive administrations.

But there is scope for improvement, something Molan stressed, saying, “We were the greatest lifters on earth when our safety and prosperity were threatened last century – and this government developing a comprehensive, coordinated and contemporary national security strategy would go a long way towards ensuring that we shall be again when, not if, we are next put to the test.”

Final thoughts

Despite the rhetoric and lofty ambition highlighted by both sides of the political debate, declining economic opportunity, coupled with the rapidly deteriorating global and regional balance of power and the increased politicisation of every aspect of contemporary life, only serves to exacerbate the very reality of disconnection, apathy, and helplessness felt by many Australians.

This attitude is only serving to be compounded and creates a growing sentiment that we are speeding towards a predestined outcome, thus disempowering the Australian people and, to a lesser extent, policymakers as we futilely confront seemingly insurmountable challenges with little to no benefit and at a high-risk/reward calculation.

Taking into account the costs and implications, it is therefore easy to understand why so many Australians, both in the general public and within our decision-making circles, seem to have checked out and are quite happy to allow the nation to continue to limp along in mediocrity because, well, it is easier than having lofty ambitions.

If both Australian policymakers and the Australian public don’t snap out of the comforting security blanket that is the belief in the End of History”, the nation will continue to rapidly face an uncomfortable and increasingly dangerous new reality, where we truly are no longer the masters of our own destiny.

All of this combines to form a rather confronting and disconcerting outcome for our long-term national security and one that requires remedying immediately if Australia is to be positioned to capitalise on the truly epoch-defining industrial, economic, political, and strategic shifts currently underway across the globe.

After all, how can we ask and reasonably expect Australians, particularly young Australians, to put the national interest ahead of their own when the nation doesn’t seem to account for their own interests, particularly when taken to the end of its logical extension, the national interest is at its core, the individual’s interest?

Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on Australia’s future role and position in the Indo-Pacific region and what you would like to see from Australia’s political leaders in terms of partisan and bipartisan agenda setting in the comments section below, or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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