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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2802

Senator CHILDS —I direct my question to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. I am aware that the Government has formally adopted a policy of encouraging the use of open systems computing in the public sector. Can the Minister say whether anything is being done to encourage the adoption of open systems in the private sector and what the benefits of open systems are?

Senator BUTTON —I very much appreciate Senator Childs's continuing interest in these matters because of his chairmanship of the relevant committee of the Senate. It is true that last August the Government introduced GOSIP—the Government Open Systems Interconnect Protocol—and has set the example, if you like, to industry and Australia generally on the introduction of open systems.

  Last week I launched the Australian user alliance for open systems, a group that I hope will serve as a catalyst to influence and accelerate the use of open systems in Australia. When I refer to the user alliance, I mean representatives of major companies such as BHP. Some of the banks and so on are represented. They are big users of computers and associated equipment and they are big advocates of the use of open systems.

  I suppose that the great advantage of open systems is that they give users much greater choices; they give buyers of equipment greater choices; and they provide additional choices for software developers. It allows the use of systems and applications from a variety of vendors. For example, big proprietary companies—and IBM historically has been such a company—when introducing systems integrations and software have tended to use their own proprietary lines in terms of the hardware which supports those systems. That is only one example—there are many others. The great advantage of open systems is that a systems integrator can have the choice of a number of systems and backup systems from various companies.

  The user alliance is trying to overcome the technical and managerial impediments to the implementation of better integrated computer systems by promoting the best use of systems based on open standards and developing joint initiatives with other groups which have a similar interest, such as communications and interfaces. Promotion of the user alliance is very timely. It will provide invaluable assistance to the community in promoting heightened awareness of the benefits of open systems and will be a focus for the representation of users to promote the use of such systems and to implement them.