FORTY years in the police force and a lifelong connection with rural Australia have provided Brett Pointing with a unique knowledge base to draw upon as he embarks on his new position as chief executive officer of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council.
He steps into the national industry role at a critical time for the trade, with public and political support on a knife-edge after a string of high-profile welfare breakdowns in recent years.
The Labor Party, currently leading polls to win the 2019 Federal Election, has pledged to phase out live sheep exports if it wins Government.
Live exporters are also now facing greater welfare compliance costs, more stringent operating conditions and increased independent oversight in future, stemming from extensive reviews triggered by the shocking exposure earlier this year of thousands of Australian sheep suffering and dying from heat stress on a 2017 shipment to the Middle East.
Brett Pointing has clearly never been one to shy away from a challenge.
In an interview with Beef Central a month after starting in the role, the former Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner said he had been drawn to the ALEC CEO position because of his deep affinity with rural Australia and the importance he sees of the livestock export industry to Australia.
“I have many family and friends in northern Australia, and am very much aware of how many Australians are dependent on their income from live export,” he said.
“I think it is an industry that is extremely important to many communities in Australia large and small, an industry that binds them together and really underpins their economic base and their sense of social cohesion.
“And there are many, many exporters that do a wonderful job 365 days a year who demonstrate very high levels of care for animals and who put animal welfare at the centre of everything they do.”
Similarities to police role
He said he sees strong similarities with his former role as a policeman, “where you have to work hard every day to maintain public trust”.
“That means doing the right thing every day and being open and honest and transparent when you get it wrong, and taking the necessary actions to continually improve what you do.
‘The aim should always be to exceed community standards, not just to meet them’
“The aim should always be to exceed community standards, not just to meet them.
“So it is all about building trust and the best way to do that is through being open and transparent in everything you do.”
Given his family connections it was perhaps inevitable that despite his love of the bush and early desire to enrol at the Longreach Agricultural College, a career in policing ultimately beckoned.
Policing has been a proud part of Brett’s family, with his father (former Assistant Commissioner Laurie Pointing), uncle (former Superintendent Tom Pointing), and brothers (former Superintendent John Pointing and Superintendent Glen Pointing) all serving.
Brett was born in Blackall and spent much of his childhood in Roma and Biloela where his father Laurie was then serving as a police officer and stock squad detective.
The family was heavily involved in campdrafting, and from the age of 13 Brett had the unique opportunity to learn the art of crafting green hide and red hide whips from legendary Roma whip maker Jack Lake, a name many readers are likely to remember.
“Old Jack was in his 70s when I met him and his hands were buggered from years of making whips, so as a 13-year-old he kind of made me his apprentice, I had to plait all his whips for him,” Brett said.
Rodeo was also a passion and in 1980 Brett made it to and competed in the national bareback rodeo finals at the famous Warwick Rodeo.
As a 15-year-old in 1978 he joined the Queensland Police Service Academy at Oxley west of Brisbane, back in the days when students could complete year 11 and 12 through the facility while training to be a police officer.
Graduating into the police force in 1981, Brett became a member of mounted police unit that served during the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, before embarking on a range of country postings including Goondiwindi, Roma, Toowoomba and Rockhampton, which enabled him to reconnect with the bush.
From the mid-1990s he worked as a detective in Brisbane, but continued to work various cases with the stock squad, including on a significant and well-known cattle stealing investigation at Croydon that resulted in multiple convictions of cattle thieves. (More details on that case here)
In 2013 Brett was promoted to the senior rank of Deputy Police Commissioner, a role he held through until his retirement from the Queensland Police Force in March of this year. In his 40 year career he received numerous awards and citations including the Australian Police Medal for distinguished service in the 2008 Queen’s Honours List.
Soon after his retirement from the Queensland Police Service the CEO role at ALEC became vacant. Brett said he was approached and asked if he would consider applying for the position.
He said he felt the role represented “a great opportunity to work with an important industry” during a particularly challenging period.
“It is a very challenging time, but a very important time, for the industry,” he said.
“Community standards have changed and social media has had the impact of amplifying community concerns.
“Of course the industry knows it has to also adapt to those changing community standards and there’s a lot of work going on inside the industry at the moment to ensure that occurs.”
Learning the trade
He started in the role last month and met many industry members at the recent ALEC and LiveCorp annual general meetings in Adelaide.
He said has been impressed to learn more about how the industry operates and the hard work being done in all parts of the supply chain to put animal welfare and the care of animals at the centre of everything that is done.
“Obviously it is a challenging time for the industry with the Moss review and the ASEL review, but I have been very impressed with the exporters in terms of their commitment to trying to rebuild that social license to operate, which is public trust, and that acknowledgement of how critical it is to put animal welfare as a primary concern in every part of the supply chain.”
“It is great to be working as part of the industry to make sure we make the necessary changes to meet changing community standards and work very hard to build and maintain the levels of community trust that are needed to be successful in the industry.”
He said he is looking forward in early 2019 to travelling further within Australia and overseas to better understand every aspect of the supply chain.