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WHEN WA geologist John Canaris takes a break, the last thing he wants to do is think about work.

Imagine his surprise when holidaying in the Cocos Islands recently, he arrived just in time to participate in the strongest earthquake recorded in that part of the Indian Ocean – a shake which not only brought down a few buildings but created a coconut storm.

When not dodging falling coconuts in exotic locations, Mr Canaris plays a major role as a senior exploration geologist for Floreat-based Fugro Airborne Surveys, an organisation which has provided mining exploration support in Australia, Chile, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

One of the company’s most recent projects came when the Geological Survey of Japan commissioned Fugro to help predict volcanic activity at Mount Usu on the northern-most island Hokkaido.

The company has been active in Japan since 1997 when it first began performing airborne magnetic surveys under a program conducted by the Metal Mining Agency of Japan.

According to Mr Canaris the airborne surveys enable scientists to make more accurate predictions of eruptions and other volcanic activity.

The versatile technology employed by Fugro is also used to map environmental changes in landscapes, resource management, farm and town planning.

The company, which first gained its experience on mining surveys in the Australian outback, has just established a new office in China where Mr Canaris said Austrade played an integral role.

“The support Austrade has provided us with a great mass of critical information into several markets, given us access to promotional information – it has even helped us with interpreters,” he said.

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The Olympic games celebrate sporting excellence. They are about sportsmanship and fair play, but they are also about competition and the search for excellence.

But what has the Olympics got to do with exporting? Simply put, Australian exporters are like our Olympic athletes in one respect: everyday they are competing against the world’s best and where only the most dedicated and fittest survive.

Australia is a sporting nation that takes competition very seriously and considers the medal tally as an important indicator of national pride. We also do well at the Olympics for a small, young nation competing against more powerful nations with long traditions.

But how do we do it?

In part due to our natural advantages. Our climate and large coastal population means we are naturals at swimming and outdoor summer-based sports such as surfing, sailing, cricket and tennis.

But where we don’t have a natural advantage we work hard through training, technology, and adaptability. We invest in human capital and we innovate – the Australian Institute of Sport is a testament to this success – overcoming geographic isolation and harsh conditions through ingenuity and creativity.

But how do we do it as a small nation in a competitive world?

As exporters we have many natural advantages, particularly in commodities.

However, distance and a small population can put us at a comparative disadvantage for many products and services. So we are driven to be innovative and use the most modern technology and management practices to succeed.

In the future it is likely to be the knowledge-based industries, such as biotechnology and re-engineered services, that will contribute to our export performance.

The Government has programs in place to develop and strengthen our expertise in these emerging areas, as well as a demonstrated commitment to supporting Australian exporters.

The Australian Export Awards is one such initiative to recognise and reward excellence, and support Australian exporters in their efforts on the world stage.

The annual awards inspire prospective exporters to break into world markets and assist existing exporters.

lTrevor de Carteret is Austrade’s Regional Trade Commissioner for WA.

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