SMH: Commentary on ARL / CoP

SMH: Peter Fitzsimons – Mick Fuller to sit on the ARL Commission? It’s madness

Sorry? What? NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller is to sit on the Australian Rugby League Commission? That’s an easy one. Not on your Nelly!

Yes, I know Commissioner Fuller seems to be a good operator. So he’d be great for rugby league you say? That’s quite possible. But that’s not the issue. It is in the very nature of some jobs that they don’t lend themselves to moonlighting – even if, like Fuller, you say you’ll donate the $75,000 annual stipend.

For example, being Premier is one of those jobs where the public has a right to the Premier’s full concentration. So is being in charge of air traffic control. So is being Chief Health Officer. And so is – call me crazy – being NSW Police Commissioner, ultimately responsible for the safety of 8 million people, and paid $650,000 a year for doing so.

Who thinks in Fuller’s current job he signs on at 9am and signs off at 5pm? I don’t. Having known a few police commissioners over the years, the all-consuming nature of their job – working from one midnight to the next – is obvious. Good on them. We are in their debt. The cops are in the absolute front line – the “thin blue line” as it is known – of public safety.Advertisement

Indeed, it was only nine days ago that Fuller quit the board of Police Bank, a financial institution for the law enforcement community, “due to the increased commitment and workload of his role” as Commissioner. Surely that speaks for itself? This is a man whose dance card is already full.

Fuller’s job is so important that I’d be gobsmacked if any police commissioner in Australian history, across all states and territories, has ever taken on a secondary role of the ARL’s nature, so clearly unrelated to his day job. But the most screamingly obvious reason not to do it is because of the perceptions of conflict of interest.

As someone who has held those heavy reins of NSW police commissioner told me: “It is crazy to even take a step down this path. There is a clear conflict of interest in controlling the police and their prosecution effort and at the same time aiding abetting and sometimes trying to limit the damage to those NRL players who might be being prosecuted.”

Get it? If Commissioner Fuller takes the secondary gig, when he speaks in public and votes in private on such matters, is he speaking and voting on what’s good for league or what’s good for police? Are those interests exactly the same? Of course not. Huge men running hard at each other and public safety are entirely different beasts to begin with – and, when it comes to what those men all too frequently do on the sauce and after dark, they are polar opposites. And being absolutely honest, if you were a probationary constable and saw a league player behaving badly outside a nightclub, would you be more or less inclined to arrest him when you know your ultimate boss was a powerful league identity? Honestly, I said!

Ok, ok, ok, because it is you, we know it would make no difference. But again, the public perception is what counts, and if Fuller is on the ARLC it will forever place every police-player interaction under added scrutiny. How was the police treatment of the league player, and the league’s treatment of the police matter, affected by Fuller’s dual roles? Justice is meant to be blind, always acting without fear or favour, and so are justice’s foot soldiers, the police. If Fuller has the dual role, perceptions of fear or favour will always be part of the conversation. It will only be a matter of time before – and I mean this, because I trust Commissioner Fuller’s integrity – absolutely false stories will circulate of some late night league atrocity that was hushed up because Commissioner Fuller fixed it to protect the league. Such false stories damage public trust in an enormously important institution.

Even as we speak two NRL players have made serious claims of police harassment over recent issues. How complicated would it get when the Commissioner of Police, who is also a Commissioner of the ARLC, has to address and speak on that? Which hat is he wearing?

It is madness, Premier, and obvious madness.

Nelly and I say NO, did I mention?

SMH: Danny Weidler – V’landys wants top cop to keep organised crime out of NRL

There is a far greater problem than player misbehaviour that Mick Fuller will be faced with if, as expected, he is approved to join the ARL Commission this week.

Commission chairman Peter V’landys is increasingly concerned about links between players and underworld figures. Fuller, 52, is expected to fill the vacant position on the commission before Friday’s annual general meeting. The prospect of Fuller joining the commission has been accepted, but his critics say he has a far more important role to play in his day job as Police Commissioner than attending to drunken footballers. V’landys says there is a bigger issue at play, however.

“There is a bigger problem facing the game that Mick needs to help us with and that is making sure the players are not associating with criminal figures, whether that be with those in the underworld or those with links to unsavoury people,” V’landys said.

In the past, images have surfaced of NRL players dining with gang members and other controversial figures.Advertisement

“It has been something we have been worried about and there have been instances where these kind of people have been associated with NRL players,” V’landys said.

“There is no one better to help the NRL through this kind of thing than Mick. The players need to know that these people will treat them like some kind of commodity that they can use for their purpose and then they discard them.

“We can’t let these figures who are known to police get their hooks into our players and, as a result of that, into the game. The integrity of the game is all important and Mick will help keep the game clean and maintain the standards that we demand and expect from the players and anyone else associated with the game.”

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