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Security is a major issue for exporters these days. Ian Murray, executive director of the Australian Institute of Export, lists necessary security precautions for exporters to remain safe while trading overseas.

At a seminar I attended last month we were addressed by Justin Bowden the CEO of the Beltin Group and Peter Scott, International Legal Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The subject was ‘Trading with Integrity’.
When introducing Peter, DFAT’s Steve Deady made the point that trade and international business today is no longer about waving a shipment of wool away, its about people traveling to service equipment, install pipelines, set up investment programs and  designing and building massive sporting venues. And these people, our people, need to be protected and informed on how to conduct business and on how to look after themselves.
The thrust of Bowden’s address was about managing the risk associated with working overseas, or what I call, ‘what do I do if’. These days of course with more and more people taking overseas postings, it’s not just you, you need to consider it’s more often than not you and your family, so it’s ‘what do we do if. And from personal experience it does happen. Thankfully I was lucky enough to have worked offshore for a major multinational that went to enormous lengths to minimise the risk, which was the very point Bowden was making.
The risk of course can come in various forms; your housing, your place of work, your mode of travel, the available health and medical facilities to name but a few. All of the physical ones can be assessed for risk. Take your house for example, it can easily be examined by a professional who may recommend having a safe room installed or at very least electrical wiring made safe. Your workplace too can be assessed for things that are reviewed as a matter of course in Australia like having adequate protection against fire from sprinklers that work, doors that won’t burn and fire stairs that are free of idle furniture. The second form of what to look out for and what to do under certain circumstances is possibly more difficult but here too there are rules that you can follow and people that can help. In his address Bowden emphasised the need to:
Be anonymous. Blend in, don’t be an easily identified target.
Plan ahead. Think ahead and choose safer options.
Be aware. Look for suspicious persons and activities.
Control access. Prevent crime and maintain security.
Be unpredictable. Change routines, routes, times and speeds.
Be a team player. Cooperate with business security measures. Not difficult things to do but very important to note.

Scott’s address, too, was all about protecting yourself but in a very different way, a way however that is becoming increasingly more important to anyone doing business offshore. The message was clear: “As an Australian conducting business abroad, you remain subject to a range of Australian laws, including United Nations Security Council sanctions and Australian Government legal requirements established against things like bribery of foreign public officials.”
The short answer as outlined in an earlier column is, don’t do it. The long answer and in particular for queries relating to sanction-affected countries, check it out with DFAT.
In the final event any Australian company that sends people to work for them overseas must put in place a policy covering safeguards for their protection. It’s not difficult and it’s not expensive; it’s our moral obligation. Likewise it’s in the best interest for companies and individuals exporting or working overseas to know the rules. Companies need to review the act, understand the definitions of bribery and foreign public officials’ and put in place a code of practice for doing business overseas. If in doubt, consult DFAT or look at their website (www.dfat.gov.au), which has a significant amount of very helpful information.   

—Ian Murray is executive director of the Australian Institute of Export.

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