news The Australian branch of the Pirate Party has expressed its dismay about the continuing delay over the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games, in a statement issued last week.
The Party had appreciated the introduction of legislation in Parliament last week that would finally establish an R18+ classification for video games. Commenting that the Government seemed to have considered the widespread public demand for a new rating system, the Pirate Party statement asserted that this would cater better to the continually growing video game market. With the new classification proposed, several games that would have been misleadingly rated under MA15+ would now obtain a more appropriate and informative rating of R18+.
However, in spite of massive public support for the new legislation, the current bill to amend the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 has been held up, pending a parliamentary inquiry. The inquiry process is usually used for bills deemed controversial or complex. No reason has been given, but the Pirate Party expects that the bill will return to Parliament within a month.
ITWire has reported that a tweet from Labor MP Ed Husic revealed last week that Tony Abbot’s Coalition had requested the R18+ video games bill to be subjected to a Standing Committee enquiry. According to Australia’s legislation process, if one MP calls for an inquiry on a proposed legislation, the bill must go through a Standing Committee for examination and scrutiny. Kotaku has reported that Husic called the inquiry an attempt by the Coalition to delay the R18+ legislation or put an end to it for good.
Speaking about his enthusiasm for the R18+ rating for video games, David Campbell, President of Pirate Party Australia opined that the new system would be superior as far as parents are concerned. “However, it is important to watch this space closely, as poorly formed classification guidelines have the potential to create no greater flexibility, with ‘refused classification’ games such as Syndicate, that are perfectly legal to purchase and play around the world, to remain banned here in Australia,” Campbell said.
Brendan Molloy, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia conveyed his hope that R18+ would not simply become MA15++. “Expanding the framework to include another classification will have little to no effect if currently banned games, that are legal in every other country, will continue to be banned after the introduction of an R18+ rating,” Molloy elaborated.
The amendment would be welcomed by some Australian parents who wish to protect their children from content produced for an older audience. The change would also give adult gamers access to other games that would have previously gotten a ‘Refused Classification’ stamp. This would enable Australian retailers to provide adults with content that they would have earlier had to import from countries in Asia or Europe with a more comprehensive rating system.
The Party also is awaiting the finalised Classification Guidelines for Computer Games that will help determine which games would obtain an R18+ classification. The Party expressed its wariness of the R18+ classification turning into just another label within the current scheme, in effect an MA15++ with no potential for enabling greater access to adult games.
At this stage, I believe we should recall Tony Abbott’s comments on the matter during the 2010 Federal Election campaign:
“If what happens with video games is not roughly analogous to what happens in other areas, that seems silly,” Abbott said in response to a question from an audience member on the Daily Telegraph’s leadership question and answer session at Sydney’s Rooty Hill RSL tonight. “Instinctively I’m with you, and it’s something I’d be happy to look at, if we are in Government,” he added. “If you think there is a problem, I would be happy to look at it.”
In short, Abbott doesn’t appear to be personally against this one. For my own part, I don’t believe the new delay will ultimately block the planned R18+ rating for video games; from my point of view it’s more or less just a normal examination of legislation which is somewhat controversial amongst some of the Coalition’s more conservative arms. The strength of the push for the rating will doubtless eventually see it through; any new examination of the proposal will continue to turn up the strong and well-developed reasoning behind it. Proponents of the new rating, however, will need to have some patience. The Federal Parliament is nothing if not slow, at times ;)