Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5167 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
If you look at the contracts register that is publicly available, you will see a number of contracts that have been signed within the last couple of months for Microsoft software to be used within the territory. These contracts total around $15 million. When there are so many other open-source solutions out there that are being provided by people in the ACT, it is so disappointing to see $15 million being spent in this way, especially when there are so many other different things that it could be spent on.
So I think this piece of legislation is very necessary, because if it was not necessary, then why are we giving $15 million to Microsoft as I speak? We would have been able to find, I think, a better solution within the open-source community.
I also think that the Treasurer has the wrong idea about what open source is and what open source sets out to achieve. He seemed to indicate that open source exists, that people develop it and then somebody puts their name on it and sells it as proprietary software. If that is happening, then it is not actually open-source software.
The whole point of open-source software is that the code remains in the public domain, that it can be used and reviewed without restriction. That is the core principle of open-source software. So I think the Treasurer needs to go back and read his IT magazines.
Mr Quinlan: Well, we'll adjourn the bill and I will. Good thinking.
MS DUNDAS: Bit late for that, Mr Quinlan. But you can read them when you are applying these new principles under the procurement guidelines.
I would like to address some concerns that have been put forward over the last couple of months about open-source software. Open-source software does not mandate exclusivity. You can actually use open-source programs under Microsoft Windows. It can connect into the Microsoft operating systems. I think we should also not be choosing software solely on the basis of the fact it is open source. Interoperability and open standards for data are equally important and that is what my amendment seeks to go to. It seeks to actually address open standards.
One of the things that I have learnt looking into open source is the whole raft of problems we are having with archiving electronic data thanks to the way our operating systems and our software have been operating over the last 10 years. Documents that were done on the computer 10 years ago can no longer be read, and nobody has access to the source code to decipher how they can be read.
I think that is very concerning when we are looking at how computers are advancing into the future and what needs to be done to be able to access our historical information. I think the government should really be embracing interoperability and open standards as a way of making sure information will be accessible now and into the future.
What this bill will do is encourage local and Australian IT companies who are currently struggling to break free from the domination of one proprietary system, to be able to work with the government on solutions for what the government needs and what the government wants, in the same way that open source was used to develop the electronic voting system that we had in operation at the last election. That was open source and it proved incredibly successful.