Australian business fails Y2K issues

Australian business is failing to address Y2K issues in contingency planning and the supply chain, and it "should be embarrassed", year2k Industry Program executives said at the launch of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS') preliminary Year 2000 Problem report.

Despite achieving considerable gains, the executives said, industry remains under-prepared to cope with any unexpected surprises on January 1, 2000.

Maurice Newman, chairman of the Federal Government's Y2K steering committee, urged business to address deficiencies in contingency planning and the supply chain, as revealed by the ABS report.

Conducted in October 1998, the survey captured the Y2K readiness of 6500 Australian businesses across all industry segments.

Newman said the report indicates business is not serious enough about seeking Y2K compliance assurance from business partners, describing the situation as "not good enough".

"It is impossible to overprepare for any eventuality caused by the millennium bug," he said.

Graeme Inchley, CEO of the Federal Government-funded year2K Industry Program, said with just 388 days until the millennium, the organisation is planning to "spotlight the laggards" in 1999.

According to the ABS results, 55 per cent of companies do not expect to become Y2K-compliant until December 1999. Inchley indicated this increases the possibility of many companies not meeting the millennium deadline.

"I believe embarrassment should be used as a very effective tool next year," Inchley said.

Other results from the ABS report reveal the total private industry expenditure on Y2K is now estimated at $10 billion.

Significantly, the report highlights the activity of Australian utilities, with 86 per cent currently taking action to address the issue. The remaining 14 per cent are described as "non-critical" utilities, where computer-based technology is not likely to play a critical role.

One of the biggest Y2K growth areas remains small to medium-sized business, with the two groups improving Y2K activity by 100 per cent and 70 per cent respectively compared to an Australian Bankers Association survey conducted in February.

The report says 98 per cent of large business with over 200 employees are undertaking Y2K work.

The ABS is planning to issue a full report on Y2K progress in January 1999.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from Senator Richard Alston's office announced that on December 17, state and territory ministers with responsibility for year 2000 issues will meet in Sydney to discuss their progress.

He said the ministerial meeting is designed to be a forum for discussing issues surrounding the governments' need to address to achieve compliance.

Each territory and state government would continue to reveal their levels of preparedness of Commonwealth and state agencies, the spokesman said.

He said the Federal government was still examining "the whole issue of legal liability" surrounding Y2K compliance, flagging the possibility that the government would introduced Good Samaritan legislation, similar to that in the US.

The American legislation was passed in order to provide companies with protection from lawsuits based on their statements regarding year 2000 readiness.

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