|Labor government would encourage open source|
Tuesday 10 July, 2001
By NATHAN COCHRANE
A future Labor government would encourage the spread of open source through less restrictive procurement processes, that now lock in proprietary systems.
But the federal IT and Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, said this could open a government to litigation.
Patrick Bindon, press secretary for Carmen Lawrence, the shadow minister for industry, innovation and technology, said the ALP supported more use of systems such as the Linux desktop and Apache server because they spur innovation and cut costs.
He said it would make sense to use open source in schools because it better exposes students to technology.
Government should take a leadership role to show the viability of non-proprietary systems through its procurement processes, he said.
"And to encourage agencies to adopt open source applications and processes, so cost to government is reduced and it's involved directly in developing a domestic open source industry," he said.
Senator Alston said the coalition government would not revisit its buying processes to promote open source solutions if it was re-elected.
He was speaking after the Melbourne meeting of the Online Council, a gathering of local government representatives and state and federal ministers, to discuss national IT strategies, such as the accelerated integration of government websites.
Alston said the federal government had "binding legal contracts" with suppliers that would open it to legal action if they were varied in any way to include open source systems.
"We don't want a variety of different set-top boxes," Alston said. "It's more a matter of making sure the competitive regime is effective than it is to get in there and second guess. It sounds to me as though it's a grandstand rather than a serious policy."
Victorian Linux users were generally supportive but sceptical of plans to encourage government to buy open source.
Analyst-programmer Chris Marsh said he would vote Labor if it could demonstrate support for open source systems, otherwise it was just a whitewash.
"Companies proposing open source systems would need to know that they will be in the running," Marsh said.
Labor would also have Brunswick Debian Project member Glen McGrath's vote if its actions lived up to rhetoric.
"I think government should see free software as a form of infrastructure, like roads or a reliable electricity supply," McGrath said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Domain name Authority (AuDA) will look at a NSW Government proposal for a community-based geographic second level domain name system that uses place names on a state and territory system.