AAP FactCheck

Restoring confidence in public statements by independently testing and verifying the facts

Was NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan the man who stopped the boats and who led coalition forces to success in Iraq?

By Tiffanie Turnbull, James Lane and Louise Evans

The Statement

"Vote 1 Jim Molan. Why Jim? The man who stopped the boats. The man who led coalition forces to success in Iraq. The man who is fighting for our nation’s fuel security."

How to vote campaign card for NSW senator Jim Molan.

The Analysis

AAP FactCheck examined the three claims made on the how-to-vote card for NSW Senator Jim Molan that he was, “The man who stopped the boats. The man who led coalition forces to success in Iraq. The man who is fighting for our nation’s fuel security”. [1]

AAP FactCheck found that only one of these claims was true - the claim about fighting for fuel security. The claims about Iraq and boats are both false.

Senator Molan was elected as a NSW Liberal Senator in December 2017 after retiring from the Australian Army in July 2008 following 40 years service. [2]

He replaced former Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash who was forced to resign because she was a dual citizen. [3]

Ahead of the 2019 federal election, he was relegated to an unwinnable position on the NSW Senate ticket by his own party in November 2018. [4]

For the election Senator Molan is listed third behind moderate Liberal candidates Hollie Hughes and Andrew Bragg on the ticket. The "Re-elect Jim Molan" campaign has been established by Liberal Party figures in Warringah, including Walter Villatora and John Crawford, who were central to the party reform movement. While it is unusual for a party candidate to have a personal campaign running parallel and counter to the party, it is not without precedent. In 2016 Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh leapfrogged other party candidates into parliament due to strong personal support. [5]

The Vote Jim Molan Campaign website links directly to the Senator’s Facebook, which includes information on how to vote for the Senator. [6]

The how-to-vote card containing the three claims has been shared on the senator’s verified Facebook page on April 29, 2019. [7]

Iraq claim

The Iraq war began in March 2003 when US forces invaded, and formally ended in 2011 when the US completed the withdrawal of troops. [8]

In mid-2004 Major-General Jim Molan was deployed to Iraq to serve as chief of staff for operations for the US-led coalition fighting the war - called the Multinational Force in Iraq.

He served under then Commander of the MNF-I, US General George Casey Jr, in this position for a year. [9]

Senator Molan told AAP FactCheck this role involved running all operations across Iraq except detention operations. He said the how-to-vote card claim that he is “the man who led coalition forces to success in Iraq” is false.

“I didn't lead the coalition forces, the coalition forces were led by a four-star general,” Senator Molan told AAP FactCheck. “I never said I was a commander, I never said I led anything, because I didn't.”

AAP FactCheck concludes the claim that Senator Molan that “the man who led Coalition forces to success in Iraq” is false.

Boats claim

Senator Molan is the co-author of Operation Sovereign Borders 2013, a hardline policy introduced by the Abbott government to “stop the boats”. Following the 2013 election won by Tony Abbott, he was appointed the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders (the border control operation). [10]

AAP FactCheck found a number of claimants who said they “stopped the boats”.

In May 2013 former prime minister John Howard told the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes TV program: “The undeniably fact is we stopped the boats coming in 2001.” [11]

In the lead-up to the 2015 federal election Tony Abbott told the National Press Club in Canberra, “the Abbott government has stopped the boats - and only this government will keep them stopped.” [12]

In a 2016 interview then Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the Turnbull government was “mindful of all of the complexities involved in securing our borders but we have stopped boats”. [13]

On September 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told News Corp columnist Miranda Devine on the Miranda Devine Live podcast that a friend and constituent had made him a trophy which he kept in his office. The trophy is in the shape of a boat and reads “I stopped these”. "It was a kind gift from a friend. I don't resile from it, we did stop boats, “ Mr Morrison said. [14]

Senator Molan told AAP FactCheck he had never made any claims about stopping refugee boats. “I've never claimed to be the man who stopped the boats,” Senator Molan said. “What I am, is the co-author of the strategy to stop the boats and then I was the special envoy for Tony Abbott on Operation Sovereign Borders. We all stopped the boats. The prime roles, as I've always said, were Abbott, Morrison and Angus Campbell, who is now the Chief of the Defence Force.”

AAP FactCheck concludes the claim Senator Molan is “the man who stopped the boats” is false.

Fuel claim

In January 2018 Senator Molan raised the issue of fuel security as a senator-designate, warning the Australian Defence Force needed greater self-reliance and needed to address critical vulnerabilities such as fuel holdings. [15]

The warning prompted then Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg to announce a Turnbull government review into fuel reserves. The review followed a number of reports relating to fuel security commissioned by the federal government from both sides of politics over the past decade. [16]

Senator Molan has continued to campaign on the issue, along with Labor in February 2019, which pledged to create government-owned crude oil and fuel reserve as "an important national security measure". [17]

AAP FactCheck concludes the claim Senator Molan was “the man who is fighting for our nation’s fuel security” to be true, however he is not alone in this campaign.

The Verdict

  • Mostly False - Mostly false with one minor element of truth.

The References

1.‘Liberal senator Jim Molan tells voters to ignore party's voting instructions, by Rosemary Bolger. SBS. April 29, 2019: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/liberal-senator-jim-molan-tells-voters-to-ignore-party-s-voting-instructions

2. ‘Jim Molan AO’. Liberal NSW website: https://nsw.liberal.org.au/Library/Members/Federal/Senator-Jim-Molan-AO,-DSC

3. ‘Senator Jim Molan calls for cutbacks to immigration, warns of potential US, China conflict’, by Rosie Lewis, The Australian. February 14, 2018: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/senator-jim-molan-calls-for-cutbacks-to-immigration-warns-of-potential-us-china-conflict/news-story/850c6730fc4c7a3cae5ef49c53b03603

4 ‘Jim Molan pulls out of Q&A after being relegated on Coalition's Senate ticket’, by Paul karp. November 25, 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/25/jim-molan-pulls-out-of-qa-after-being-relegated-on-coalitions-senate-ticket

5. ‘Jim Molan goes rogue: The NSW senator mounting a conservative insurgency to keep his seat’, by David Wroe. April 17, 2019: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/jim-molan-goes-rogue-the-nsw-senator-mounting-a-conservative-insurgency-to-keep-his-seat-20190416-p51era.html

6. ‘Vote Jim Molan’. Authorised by J Crawford, Re-Elect Jim Molan Campaign, Sydney: https://votejimmolan.com.au/

7. ‘Senator Jim Molan”. Verified FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SenatorJimMolan/photos/rpp.155139888613974/433119884149305/?type=3&theater

8. ‘Iraq War’. Encyclopaedia Brittannica: https://www.britannica.com/event/Iraq-War

9. ‘To gloat is to insult many brave Iraqis’, by Miranda Devine. Sydney Morning Herald. December 9, 2006: https://www.smh.com.au/national/to-gloat-is-to-insult-many-brave-iraqis-20061209-gdp0gr.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

10. ‘Senator Jim Molan calls for cutbacks to immigration, warns of potential US, China conflict’, by Rosie Lewis, The Australian. February 14, 2018: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/senator-jim-molan-calls-for-cutbacks-to-immigration-warns-of-potential-us-china-conflict/news-story/850c6730fc4c7a3cae5ef49c53b03603

11. John Howard. 60 Minutes Australia. May 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HJjBmciK_c

12. ‘Tony Abbott Address to the National Press Club Canberra’, Parliament of Australia. February 2, 2015: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id:%22media/pressrel/3636103%22

13. ‘Doorstop Interview, Sydney’. Peter Dutton. April 29, 2016: https://minister.homeaffairs.gov.au/peterdutton/2016/Pages/doorstop-interview-29042016.aspx

14. ‘Morrison's mate made stopping boats trophy’, Newcastle Herald/AAP. Sept 19, 2018: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5656537/morrisons-mate-made-stopping-boats-trophy/

15. ‘US too weak to rescue Australia: Former general’, by Lisa Martin. The New Daily/AAP. January 4, 2018: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2018/01/04/us-too-weak-to-rescue-australia

16. ‘Does Australia have 3 weeks of petrol in reserve?’. ABC. July 12, 2018: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-23/fact-check-jim-molan-fuel-security/9687606

17. ‘Labor Government could buy petrol, diesel, jet fuel and crude oil to prevent Australia running out’, by Dan Conifer. ABC. Feb 28, 2019: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-28/labor-announces-national-fuel-reserve-policy/10857562

  • First published April 30, 2019 18:00 AEST