Crunch time approaches for Y2K good Samaritan in Australia

A ministerial meeting on year 2000, scheduled for Thursday, December 17, is likely to see a decision between state and federal ministers on whether to go ahead with Y2K good Samaritan legislation in Australia.

Speaking yesterday senator Ian Campbell, parliamentary secretary to the Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, said: "If we don't make a decision to go forward [on good Samaritan] cooperatively on Thursday . . . there's not going to be another chance timetable wise."

The meeting on the December 17 in Sydney will include federal, state and territory ministers with responsibility for year 2000 issues.

Federal government has been seeking input from the states on whether good Samaritan legislation, to promote Y2K information disclosure by shielding organisations from lawsuits that might arise from the sharing of year 2000 information, is needed and, if so, what form it should take, Campbell said.

He said that if a decision is made to proceed with the legislation, then state and federal governments will need to act cooperatively to introduce it.

Yesterday the NSW government announced it had prepared a draft Y2K good Samaritan bill, entitled the 'Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure bill'.

The NSW government plans to circulate the draft bill around state, territory and federal governments, Kim Yeadon, NSW Minister for Information Technology, said yesterday.

NSW state government officials agree that such legislation should be pursued at a national level.

"The Bill recognises the concerns held by both the public and private sector in regard to Y2K liability and is designed to encourage the transfer of information," Yeadon said.

Modelled on the US Year 2000 Information Disclosure Act, (which became popularly known as the good Samaritan bill) the NSW draft bill aims to enhance the flow of Y2K information by allowing individuals or organisations to make statements about the Y2K compliance or non compliance status of products, whether their own or those of a third party without fear of litigation.

The goal of the draft bill is to protect issuers of such statements from legal action unless* the issuer knew that its statement was false, inaccurate or misleading;* the statement was made with an intent to deceive or mislead;* attempts to verify the accuracy of the statement were inadequate.

Last month Campbell indicated that if Y2K good Samaritan legislation goes ahead in Australia, it is likely to do so in the next session of parliament.

Yeadon also announced three further Y2K measures, for NSW government agencies yesterday:

* Additional funding for NSW state agencies which can demonstrate a shortfall in resources for Y2K rectification and replacement of computer systems. According to a spokesman for the minister, the NSW government estimates there is a current resources gap of around $100 million to be covered by additional funding;* Creation of Y2K functional area forums for NSW government agencies. The forums will provide sector-wide Y2K approaches in key areas including electricity, water, state emergency committees, food supply, law and order, health, economic, transport, community services and waterways and ports.

* The provision of monthly reports on whole of government Y2K progress to NSW state cabinet.

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