[clug] AEC denies FOI request to source code of 'EasyCount' for counting Senate votes.

steve jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Mon Jul 7 19:53:53 MDT 2014

Anyone across this issue?
Is any action possible?


In the USA, the AEC would be on far shakier ground as their constitution (?) states, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. In Westminster Democracies, like ours, the Government represents The Crown, not The People, very important difference.

In the world of Open Source, this is often taken to be that software developed by Universities & Government Agencies and _implicitly_ paid for by the public, is automatically owned by the public.

Somehow that gets reformulated with biotech patents.


Other comments:

I agree there could be a ‘trade secret’ for an implementation of a publicly known algorithm.
There are clever, non-obvious ways to do things that are worth real money in commercial operations.

I don’t agree that the AEC should hold the software secret. AEC declared the software "non-commercial” and it's paid for by the public purse and used strictly for public purposes.


Letter 4-Jul-14, Relevant paras:
14 - refusal on grounds of Trade Secret
33 - declaring mjec a ‘Vexatious Applicant'

On the mjec.net site, he gives this as the summary of positions:


The AEC's position is that EasyCount contains a trade secret, namely the algorithm used to count Senate votes. On this basis they have refused access to the documents. Their position is that the trade secret extends to the titles of the documents and so they have refused to provide a schedule of identified documents.

My position is that there can be no secret in the algorithm, because it is public, and that the source code is in any case not commercially valuable within the meaning of the FOI Act (i.e. its release would not cause substantial commercial harm to the AEC). I also take the position that in any case there is no trade secret in the titles of the relevant documents.


Steve Jenkin, IT Systems and Design 
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

mailto:sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au http://members.tip.net.au/~sjenkin

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