Friday, 17 September 2010 13:11

What is Lundy doing at Software Freedom Day?


On Saturday, September 18, Melbourne will mark Software Freedom Day, a day observed worldwide to spread the message of free and open source software.

It's somewhat coincidental that in the week leading up to this, the man who is the inspiration for this day, Richard Matthew Stallman, was in Melbourne.

The irony is that the celebrations in Melbourne will strike a discordant note. For it is here that politicians - who do little for the cause of freedom in either software or anything else - are being allowed to parade their agenda.

The list of speakers for the Melbourne celebrations, being held at the State Library of Victoria from 11am to 4pm, includes a talk on "Government 2.0" (whatever that means) by Labor Senator Kate Lundy and Pia Waugh, her ICT policy adviser.

There are no details available about the talk at the time of writing but it seems ludicrous to allow government flunkeys a platform to spruik their wares on a day like this.

I spent an hour with Stallman this week and also listened to him speak on copyright issues; one of his quotes has stayed with me: "From being a government of the people, by the people and for the people, we have become a government of the people, by the flunkeys and for the corporations."

I'm not sure what the Labor government has done to advance the cause of software freedom. If it has done anything, then it has definitely managed to keep everyone else unaware of its valuable contribution.

On the openness front, we've seen a broadband plan from this government, one that is already being implemented, priced at $43 billion sans any details. That incidentally happens to be money which you and I pay as taxes, dear reader.

We've also seen at least one bogus exercise in pretending to listen to the people: when Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's famous internet filter was first proposed, we were given to understand that Lundy was the voice of reason on the issue.

A long discussion took place on her blog and it was evident to all, except those with an IQ below that of the mule, that it was not welcome in Australia.

But this turned out to be a classic exercise in spin - giving people a say so that they felt good about venting their spleen and then doing exactly what was intended in the first place.

Conroy is continuing to bleat about the filter - he was on the ABC's current affairs radio show, PM, just yesterday. His tone reminded me of Terry Jones, the pastor in the US who became famous overnight when he staged a stunt threatening to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of September 11. The same righteous tones of the fundamentalist rang out loud and clear.

So what is a representative of this same Labor government, one that seeks to curtail the freedom of internet users, doing at Software Freedom Day?

Labor has no place at Software Freedom Day. At least, if it had done something like the New Zealand government has - getting rid of software patents - then one would have a more sympathetic view. In this case, the platform is being misused to project government propaganda.

Users of free software and open source software and lovers and supporters of freedom can certainly do without it.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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