Democrats target Microsoft

The Australian Democrats are trying to embarrass governments into supporting legislation mandating open source software, by asking questions in parliament about how much departments spend on Microsoft products. And Democrats in NSW, the ACT and federal parliament are drafting open source preference legislation along the lines of upper house member Ian Gilfillan's Bill in South Australia, as part of a campaign to lift the profile of the software.

SA Democrat upper house member Mr Gilfillan has led the way with his private member's Bill. NSW Democrats MLC Arthur Chesterfield-Evans has questions on notice with all state ministers requiring them to reveal their departments' expenditure on Microsoft products, and is planning to introduce his own private member's Bill. "Bill Gates is the richest man in the world and we're making a hefty contribution," he said. "What the country doesn't need is to be tied into a profit-maximising licensing system, and the way to combat that is to get government to break out of the paradigm."

Dr Chesterfield-Evans said his legislation - modelled on that of Mr Gilfillan - would encourage competition. "I've linked it to the idea of open market competition," he said. "Under the National Competition Policy, governments should follow procedures that allow competition. "The whole world is being dictated to by Microsoft." Dr Chesterfield-Evans admitted his Bill was almost certain to be voted down, as the Government was unlikely to support it.

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