Commissioner Fuller, Renaissance Man

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

In a nation crying out for vision and leadership, help sometimes arrives from the most unexpected quarter.

The old saying goes “it’s always the quiet ones”, and indeed most of us would never have heard of the unassuming Commissioner until he was reluctantly thrust into the spotlight last November by a highly compromising telephone call from the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison).

Faced with a request to disclose details of an open and ongoing investigation relating to a Federal Cabinet Minister, Fuller gave us a glimpse then of what he’s made of, unhesitatingly providing the Prime Minister details of the investigation and predicting what it would conclude before it was finished.

Fearless, and visionary.

It was a further measure of his leadership skills that despite the politically charged nature of the Taylor inquiry he then unflinchingly passed the whole thing off to the AFP and washed his hands of it.

That early glimpse was confirmed when he was challenged about the propriety of that conversation, responding that he hadn’t told the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) anything that wasn’t in the public press release. His talents were then validated when a search of all the police press releases on the police website provided information about strike forces Parrabell, Raptor, Rossan, Bildera, Welsford, and Maluku.

None, however, about strike force Garrad, the investigation in question. Clever Commissioner Fuller! Add ethical, legal and public relations skills to the list.

Nevertheless these are all only skills we might hope to find in the head of a police force; it wasn’t until Covid-19 overtook our lives that Commissioner Fuller was revealed as the remarkable polymath he really is.

In one brief quote he displays almost the full gamut of his considerable talents. Speaking of the Ruby Princess and other cruise ships, he said:

They don’t pay taxes in Australia, they don’t park their boats in Australia … time to go home. […] There are thousands of people, potentially, in cruise ships off our coasts that aren’t members of our state and if we take them in, then that could well flood our system unnecessarily. All the hard work we’ve done could be over. We will continue to allow them to have fuel and food … but it is time to go to your port of origin.

It’s difficult to list all his fields of knowledge. Foreign affairs expert, ethicist, taxation expert, epidemiologist, public health expert, and of course spokesperson for government policy. A dizzying array of skills and expertise gathered under one hat.

But there was more to come. Barely a fortnight later when the NRL desperately needed to know whether they could restart their competition in May, to whom did they turn? The Prime Minister (Scott Morrison)? The Attorney General (Christian Porter)? The Chief Medical Officer? The national cabinet? The Premier of New South Wales? No! For their medico-legal advice and permission, they turned to our renaissance man, Commissioner Fuller.

Faced with this awesome challenge and perhaps unexpected responsibility, Commissioner Fuller didn’t flinch. Unhesitatingly and single-handedly he authorised the NRL to restart their competition in late May.

As at 8 April 2020, the NSW Health Minister’s Directions relating to COVID-19 does not preclude the NRL from commencing a competition in the terms outlined above.

More importantly, he explained to the NRL that the rules didn’t mean that people had to keep four metres apart – there just had to be room to allow that.

Amazing! It speaks to the Commissioner’s incisive intellect that he alone could see the real intention of the rules, when millions of his fellow Australians had misunderstood them to mean actually staying four metres apart, the rugby players among them.

What a man; he stands revealed as the real architect not only of New South Wales’ Covid-19 policy, but the whole nation’s, and we glimpse the extraordinary power he wields. Luckily for us there is no field in which Commissioner Fuller is not just knowledgable but a pre-eminent expert!

Lesser men, men like the Chief Medical Officer, whose skills and expertise lie only in a single field, were less resolute. Dr. Murphy responded tentatively that it was a bit “premature” to be planning the NRL’s return, but our hero, polymath that he is, had no such doubts, and not only was he unafraid to voice them, he gave his permission to the NRL.

Consider the full gamut of his skills: Foreign affairs, ethics, taxation, epidemiology, public health, sport, health policy, legal interpretation, document forensics, fortune telling, the list goes on and on. Truly a renaissance man, a man for our times, and how typical of his unassuming modesty that he should determine policy and rule the nation from an office inside the NSW Police.

Although comparisons are odious, we can’t help but contrast his manifold skills and powers with those of a former police officer, the man notionally responsible for border protection and our national emergency response— Peter Dutton—who in contrast has been practically invisible since last November.

All hail Commissioner Mick Fuller.

[Addendum, Tuesday April 14]

It should come as no surprise that no sooner had I written this exposé of the remarkable Mr. Fuller than another story should emerge showcasing the depth and breadth of his talents.

As reported by the ABC and numerous other outlets, Commissioner Fuller has opened a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the docking and disembarkation of infected passengers from the Ruby Princess.

Naively, perhaps, given what I already know of Commissioner Fuller’s vast erudition, I had expected this investigation to focus on the information exchanges and decisions relating to the permission to dock and permission to release passengers, but Commissioner Fuller has surprised us again.

Although it’s reported he has over one thousand passengers to interview, and the investigation is only in its early stages, the remarkable Commissioner Fuller has extended the scope of his criminal enquiry to include a hunt for patient zero on board the Ruby Princess, and the patient’s likely occupation and location.

Ordinarily a job for skilled medical staff, pathologists and epidemiologists, Commissioner Fuller hasn’t hesitated to add his expertise to this inquiry, something almost totally irrelevant to his criminal investigation, and it’s again a measure of the man that he has been able to publicly report to the national news media the results of his inspired guesswork long before any formal test results are available.

Full testing hasn’t even been done on all crew members, yet Commissioner Fuller is so confident in his combined medical and investigative skills that he has announced the source of the infection long before any health authorities have dared to speculate. I will not now be surprised to find he is also working on a vaccine in his spare time.

Truly a remarkable individual.