For a high-achiever, Barry Jones has always been a man aware of his limitations. ''I was too political to be a fully accepted intellectual, too intellectual to be regarded as an effective politician in the Australian context,'' he wrote in his biography A Thinking Reed.
''I am well aware of my deficiencies, things I do not know and cannot do,'' he added, citing among his shortcomings a lack of killer instinct and ''the divine gift of creativity''.
His elevation to the highest honour (aside from the re-introduced knighthood) consequently came as a pleasant surprise on two counts: he thought his time had passed and he considered his interests too diverse to attract a nomination.
''As Rupert Murdoch would say, I'm humbled by the award but I'm gratified because I think there's a touch of vindication,'' 81-year-old Jones says.
''What's probably turned out to be significant in what I've done is that I've linked together so many disparate areas. It's not an accident that I'm the only person to have been elected as a fellow of the four learned academies.''
One example is an issue Jones says he has been ''banging on about'' for a very long time: climate change.
''It has tremendous implications, and not just for the future of the species,'' he says, ''but for the way we live, the way we make policy decisions, the way we analyse things, the role of science, the role of ethics, and how we deal with wicked problems.
''Where I've played a kind of useful role, but not been recognised at the time, has been to link these things together.''
The award recognises Mr Jones' role as a leading intellectual in Australian public life, through contributions to scientific, heritage, musical, medical, political and public health organisations, and to the Australian and Victorian Parliaments.
Asked if he felt his prospects for such recognition had dimmed, he replies: ''Frankly yes. It was a bit of a surprise. I've been an officer of the order [of Australia] for 21 years.''
Mr Jones says the recognition will not dim his determination to keep being heard. ''When you reflect on the state that science is in, we talk about wars on poverty - well, at the moment there's a war on science.
''It won't shut me up. I'll be continuing to try to save the world and the Labor Party.''