United MP Peter Dunne says he has been inundated with support for his proposed private member’s bill to ensure companies address the year 2000 problem.
He now believes the government should pick up on it, rather than risk the bill not being drawn out of the ballot for private member bills.
“We’ve had a huge amount of feedback — from the legal fraternity, small businesses, people who I guess you’d call computer buffs, and some Government departments.
“They’re all saying: ‘Hey look, this problem’s important, it’s got to be resolved, and we’re delighted to see that someone’s taking up the cudgels’.”
Dunne says he is pleased at the intense public reaction, because it means there will be more debate.
“Hopefully, as a result of that, we can increase the pressure on the government to act. That’s my first preference because they can act at any time — I’m reliant on winning a ballot. If it comes to that I’ll take my chances but I’d really prefer to use this matter as a catalyst for the wider debate.”
He also intended to seek multi-party support once the proposal was more developed.
Dunne says he hasn’t spoken to the government yet, but plans to once the proposed legislation is nearer completion, hopefully in about two weeks. Dunne is using Swedish material and a bill from British parliament member David Atkinson to help produce a New Zealand bill.
The British legislation, which would have forced companies there to update their computer systems to be 2000-compliant, was killed off in February by the British House of Commons — effectively ending its chance to become law.
That concerns Dunne in terms of the “wider picture”, but not for the implications for New Zealand. It could be used as a base to start the debate and focus attention on the issue.
In Britain, some groups opposed the bill because it would place an undue burden on companies and was impractical.
Dunne recognises these concerns.
“It’s all very well to say the law requires you to do certain things, but you’ve got to have a way of enforcing it and ensuring what you’re requiring is achievable.
Dunne says he would be happy if companies can reach a voluntary, across-the-industry agreement, and agree to do certain things in certain time-frames.
Year2000 director Ross Stewart has predicted that 500 companies could fail and put 12,000 New Zealanders out of work.