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1997-07-09 00:00:00


Australia: It May Be Too Late, Says Science Minister



Federal Science Minister Peter McGauran spoke in early July on the y2k problem. His words were amazingly non-bureaucratic: "If enough industry sectors ignore the problem, there is the potential for widespread chaos and severe damage to the economy."

At this point, the reader expects some sort of calming rhetoric: "However, we're on target." But McGauran escalated his rhetoric. He said that companies are only beginning to face up to this reality, and they are now "perilously close" to being too late. "Even if firms do start a compliance program now, there is little time left for the process of assessing, repairing and testing."

How is the Australian government doing? It is not quite at the assessment stage. (The California White Paper says this is about 1% of the task.) It is at the "asessment of risks posed" stage -- which comes before an actual audit of code. "The National Audit Office has also begun an audit of departments to assess the risks y2k pose to Government and expects to table recommendations to Parliament by December." In Australia, to "table" means to present a report, not to defer making a decision -- to the extent that presenting a report does not then become the basis of not making a decision.

Officials then reported that the government does not plan to allocate special funds to fix y2k. Individual government departments must fund the repairs.

If Australia were invaded by Red China, would the government allocate special funds to the departments if the war effort demanded it? I think so. Anything for which government refuses to allocate funds has, in effect, been put on the table in the American sense: "No required action until further notice."

The article appeared in THE AGE: Melbourne Online (July 8).


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