Australian Y2K air safety in "amber zone"

Officials are disputing the "amber" risk status of Y2K air safety disruption, that has been issued to Australia by an international year 2000 monitoring group.

Taskforce 2000, a UK industry-funded group that monitors Y2K-related disruption, claims Australia is one of 14 countries worldwide running a "risk of disruption" for air travel for the five weeks between Christmas and the end of January 2000.

The report places nations in one of three categories: red, amber and green. Red-light countries (serious risk of disruption) include Germany, Italy and Spain, and amber-light countries include Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

"There's an awful lot of work that hasn't been done," said Taskforce 2000 spokesman Rob Wilson, in relation to airline services in the amber and more critical red-light countries.

"We don't feel there's enough information available."

However, Graeme Inchley, CEO of the federal government's Y2K industry program, said he was "staggered" at the Taskforce 2000 report, and that he had already "penned a note" to the organisation.

"We sent them a copy of our most recent report," he said. "The stuff we sent was as comprehensive as anything I've seen."

Inchley said he strongly disagreed, not only with Australia's amber rating, but with ratings given to other amber-light countries such as New Zealand and Canada.

Inchley said several other (unspecified) international reports have given Australia a green light.

"If they're [Taskforce 2000] not careful, people will start to get the picture [that Australia is not at risk], which could seriously damage their credibility," he said.

Keith Orkney, Y2K air services program manager at Air Services Australia, said he was "surprised" at the findings in the report, although he agreed the Y2K "critical" period will span five weeks.

"Different software systems do use different dates," he said, specifying certain computerised systems "treat public holidays differently".

"January third may be difficult," he said.

Despite record airline passenger numbers for January 2 to 5, Orkney said it was unlikely critical flight information would be at risk for the full five week period. He said it was more likely billing systems and payroll systems would be at risk.

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