Linux Oz head builds open-source SBR link

Linux Oz head builds open-source SBR link

Summary: John Ferlito, president of Linux Australia, has revealed that he and several associates are developing a way for open-source users to interface with the government's Standard Business Reporting (SBR) system.


John Ferlito, president of Linux Australia, has revealed that he and several associates are developing a way for open-source users to interface with the government's Standard Business Reporting (SBR) system.

John Ferlito

Linux Australia president John Ferlito is working with the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Treasury to implement open-source users wanting to take advantage of SBR and AUSkey.(John image by Alice Boxhall, CC BY-ND 2.0)

In an interview with ZDNet Australia, Ferlito said that the aim of the project is to allow open-source users to communicate with SBR.

The SBR enables businesses and reporting professionals to lodge government forms such as tax returns and BAS electronically across multiple government departments. Businesses are able to lodge this information using AUSkey — a single secure sign-on for the SBR program.

AUSkey and SBR lack support for Linux users wanting to file their BAS online, as opposed to old system Electronic Commerce Interface (ECI), previously distributed by the Australian Taxation Office.

The Linux Australia president has been developing an open-source code library to present to Treasury within the next month.

"There are two aspects to the reporting system — one is compiling an .xml document to submit, we aren't concerned about doing that, that's easy. What we are concerned with is submitting the documents securely to the Australian Taxation Office," Ferlito said.

"AUSkey replaces the ECI system from the Australian Taxation Office and acts as an all-of-government [sign-on key for business reporting]. Right now that doesn't work with Linux, that's something that we're talking to Treasury about," he added.

The Department of Treasury released a Software Developer Kit for SBR at launch, including a Java and .NET library for Windows and Mac OS development. Ferlito is in the process of writing an open-source code library to provide to the community.

"Let's go further and create a community around [the code library]. If people start contributing then it will have more value and be better suited to them," he said.

In a discussion with ZDNet Australia, Ferlito noted that Australian governments were now more receptive to open source than ever.

"There are some interesting things happening around government and open source. The Australian Government Information Management Office did a review in 2007 on how software is being used in government and ... that showed that almost every agency is using some open source somewhere ... predominately on the back-end," he said.

"Personally, one thing I've noticed recently is almost every single tender that's published for government indicates that they're very keen [for open source]."

Ferlito predicted that this use of open-source technologies at the back-end of business would see traditional Windows users re-considering the need to move to Windows 7, instead considering a cheaper, more open platform.

"I think from a business and government point of view at the back-end, the battle [between Windows and open source] was fought and won a long time ago," he said.

Topics: Open Source, Government, Government AU, Linux

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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  • Really appreciated. It is a common issue everywhere that Govt. departments create Windoze-only stuff. It is a good move that Govt. departments are seriously considering open source nowadays.
    However, in this article, it is mentioned that the Dept of Treasury released SDK for .Net and Java. If Java SDK is there, why cant it be used in Linux too?
  • Hi Syampillai,
    In our interview with Ferlito, he said that the Java SDK was missing some key components in order to submit files safely and successfully to the ATO.

    Luke Hopewell
  • Curious... the Federal Government releases an API which is "missing key components in order to submit files safely and successfully" ? What would be the point of that ? AFAIK, the sample API's provided were able to connect securely and submit sample files to test servers.

    Also software developers had to sign NDA's for this SDK to be made available for them. It would be interesting to know how the open source community got around that. Does that mean confidential documents regarding AusKey would be made open source too ?

    Most importantly, to implement this open sourced functionality to the back end will cost money to enterprises, how exactly is this in line with the federal government's "saving of 800 million" ?
    Azizi Khan
  • Not only are there missing components from the SDK, there are also parts (such as browser plugins) that are only distributed as binaries for a small set of specific platforms.

    The SDK is put together pretty poorly. It uses a number of open source components, but rather than packaging the source to versions that are known to work and providing tested config options, the SDK documentation merely includes the URLs to main project web site for each open source component.

    The AUSkey software distributed by the government uses GPL licensed software and actually violates the GPL license terms.
  • The Java SDK works on linux. I'm using it at Free Accounting Software.