Open source crusader to resubmit SA law

Following a flurry of interest, feedback, and protest to his initial bill to mandate the use of open source software, Democrat Ian Gilfillan resubmits an amended version of the proposed legislation to the South Australian parliament next week.

Although the revised bill will include clauses embracing the use of software, which supports open standards, Gilfillan said the crux of the bill won’t change.

"Unless the bill has power it’s really a motherhood statement," Gilfillan said. "I make no apologies about obligating the use of open source software within government departments and I don’t have the least objection to convincing governments to give preference to it. I think it would be good for Adelaide and Australia."

Gilfillan, while still finalising his new proposal, told Computerworld that the amended bill “may have an expanded definition of open source or have additions”.

“The revised bill may have an option - when open source is not practicable – that software that supports open standards is mandated instead,” he said.

“We are embracing open standards, open file formats, and multi-vendor submissions as government culture has been locked into Microsoft.”

The bill had to be resubmitted to parliament in the current Spring sitting, because time ran out in the Budget sitting which ended in August.

“I believe opposition to the original bill was based on ignorance by the major parties,” he said. “Although bureaucrats from established agencies don’t want to be disturbed, I’m confident with a bit of publicity we will get there.”

Gilfillan said changes to the bill were prompted by “friendly fire”, including opposition from open source advocates.

“People with good will opposed us, including the Australian Unix Users Group (AUUG) and the Institute for Software Choice seems to be just a front for proprietary software,” he said.

Regarding AUUG’s proposal to introduce “guidelines” promoting the use of open source software rather than legislation, Gilfillan said there has been discussions held with the group’s president Greg Lehey.

When asked about the apparent lack of preparedness of the other states to mandate open source software, Gilfillan said: “Our bill will be the pacemaker for others.”

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