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Linux support by politicians

In two days time we are having a state election in Victoria (Australia). For this election there is only one party with policies that are positive towards free software, that is the Australian Greens. The policy documents include an IT policy (note that the IT policy is on a link that may change while the policy documents is a permanent link).

The Greens IT policy has three sections under the goals, one of those is about open standards (ensuring that government data is in documented file formats for use by all with no need to purchase software) and another is about Open Source which directly advocates the use of free software by government agencies. The principles part of the document is also very positive towards free software and explains why it’s beneficial for Australia.

Any Greens representatives that are elected on the weekend have to abide by the party policy, that means that they must advocate the use of open standards and Open Source in government use and vote accordingly when any legislation related to computers is being considered!

Some of the members of the Greens are also members of the free software community, we were able to explain to the other party members the benefits for Australia and for social justice in the use of free software, and thus we reached an agreement about on a policy that suits people who use free software – not to benefit such people, but because of the benefits to society of the use of free software.

I think it would be good if members of the free software community in other countries would also join their local Green party and promote similar policies. While there is no direct connection between the Green parties in different countries the aims are very similar and therefore the arguments that persuaded Green members in Australia can be expected to work reasonably well in other countries (I am happy to provide advise in this regard via private mail if requested).

Also it would be good if other parties could be persuaded to have similar policies. If you want to help the free software community but for some reason you don’t support the Greens then please join a party that matches your views and advocate an IT policy that promotes free software.

Currently people who want to vote for free software in the Victorian election have no option other than to vote for the Greens. As a member of the Greens I am happy to document this as a reason to vote Green. But as a member of the free software community I would like to see other parties adopt policies that promote free software.

The Greens adoption of a policy that promotes free software was largely driven by the issue of social justice. We believe that every Australian citizen has the right to access all public government data. If government data is available in proprietary formats then access is only granted to people who can afford the latest software ($800 for a full copy of MS Office) and hardware to run it ($600 at least). We believe that unemployed people who receive free Linux computers from Computerbank should be able to access government data. We also believe that when FOI laws apply in 30 years time all current data should be accessible, there’s no chance that whatever version of Office is being sold in 30 years time will read current MS file formats, and there’s no guarantee that MS will even be in business then. File formats for which there are authoritative open-source programs written to use them will be accessible in 30 years time and more.

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