The NSW Government today said it expected a “reasonable compromise” would shortly be reached with the other states on the issue of an R18+ classification rating for video game sales in Australia, with the Federal Government hailing a national agreement on the issue this morning as a “historic win” that could see R18+ games being sold within “months”.
In Adelaide this morning, attorneys-general from around Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of a long-awaited in-principle agreement which would see an R18+ classification introduced nationally for video games in Australia, with NSW being the only jurisdiction to abstain from the vote.
The lack of an R18+ classification has resulted in various popular video being censored for the Australia market or refused classification so that they are unable to be sold locally. The unanimous support of attorneys-general from all of Australia’s states and territories is required to change classification guidelines in the area.
Initial reporting on the meeting had focused on potential delays stemming from NSW’s abstention from the vote, but speaking to journalists following the meeting, NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith appeared very positive about the agreement.
“On behalf of the NSW Government, I am delighted that an agreement has been reached,” Smith said, noting he didn’t expect NSW to be the stick in the mud in the deal. “I’m sure there will be a reasonable compromise established, so that the nation will move forward.”
Smith said the new NSW Coalition Government had discussed the matter internally since it took office in March this year, but had focused during that period on other priorities during its first 100 days in office.
However, he said, he would take the R18+ classification guidelines agreed to by the other jurisdictions back to the NSW Cabinet for discussion and to gauge the public’s reaction to the matter. “I have to get back and sound public reaction to the agreement before I take it to cabinet,” he said. “I’m sure there will be discussions between us and the Commonwealth concerning the new guidelines. We’ve got to consult for a while.”
Smith said he didn’t believe the process would take that long, but he didn’t want to allocate a specific time to the consultation process.
Broadly, the politician said he saw the agreement as a positive step, as some video games which were currently under the MA15+ classification rating which he saw as undesirable would be shifted upwards into the new R18+ rating. “I think it’s positive that they should be in the adult category,” he said.
R18+ games with “months”?
Despite NSW’s abstention, Federal Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor this morning hailed the in-principle agreement between the eight other states and territories as a “historic agreement” which could lead to video games being sold in Australia under the new R18+ classification within “months”.
A number of amendments were agreed to this morning to the draft R18+ classification guidelines which the Federal Government released in late May; those amendments will now need to go back to the different jurisdictions’ own cabinets for approval.
However, O’Connor pointed out that under Australian law, the different states and territories already had some flexibility about how they enforced classification guidelines in their own geographies. He also noted he understood NSW’s hesitation on the matter for now, given it was the state’s first attendance at the attorney-generals’ meeting and that it had only recently elected a new government.
“I’m confident that with the meeting today, we will be able to go forward,” he told journalists. “It is perfectly proper that the jurisdictions sign off on those amendments … I don’t want this matter returning to another attorneys meeting. We can move forward when the cabinets have signed off on the amendments today.” It would be “a matter of months that we will see the capacity to start to introduce this classification,” the Minister added.
“The criticism that the council of attorneys-general doesn’t always make decisions can be put to rest today,” O’Connor said. “We have today struck a historic agreement — I applaud the efforts of my colleagues.”
Image credit: Screenshot from Epic’s Gears of War game