Act normal over year 2000, forum urges

Public reaction to the year 2000 rollover is expected to be the biggest issue industries confront at the end of the year, according to industries spokespeople.

Government, telecommunications and utilities officials who attended the NSW Y2K Infrastructure Forum in Sydney last week agree encouraging people to "behave normally" over the transition period is a key concern.

"The main issue is trying to encourage the public and customers to behave normally," said Johanna Plante, CEO of the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF).

Chris Gabriel, Cable & Wireless Optus IT director, said wrongfully assuming a problem is caused by year 2000-related issues may be a problem.

"We are encouraging people not to behave abnormally with [any] communications [devices]," he said.

Meanwhile, Maurice Newman, chairman of the year 2000 steering committee, is confident most Australian businesses are, or will be, Y2K ready by the end of the year.

"Australia looks to be in very good shape," he said.

"There's certainly not going to be the catastrophe we were expecting two years ago.

"There are no significant show stoppers amongst our services . . . by and large we're saying it's going to be business as usual," he said.

Newman said the small business market might be cause for concern. However, government and industry will be able to gauge a better idea of the market after a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is released on August 31.

Newman and Senator Ian Campbell, parliamentary secretary for the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, warned Australian industries that the lack of year 2000 preparedness by foreign countries will have an impact on local business.

"There are worries and concerns about utilities in other countries. One of the concerns is the supply chain and to what extent we depend on imports," Newman said.

"We will be affected . . . we're part of a global economy," Campbell said.

"Many nations in the region are way behind the eight-ball . . . there will be impacts."

According to Campbell, 30 per cent of Australia's trade occurs within the Asia-Pacific region.

Campbell said, however, Australia and Australian businesses stand to gain from others' lack of preparedness.

"There will be a realigning of economic powers as a result of Y2K. Our industries will see benefit because of the investment Australia's industrial sector has made," he said.

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