ACT preparing to "go it alone" on Aussie R18+

Territory Attorney-General Simon Corbell is preparing options for adopting R18+ for games should a national consensus not be reached in July.

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Following on from South Australia's recent decision to introduce R18+ for games in the state should the federal government make a move to pass the adult rating without a nationwide consensus, the Australian Capital Territory has voiced its intent to go down a similar path.

Speaking to GameSpot AU, ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said that he has asked his department to prepare options on what the ACT can do if there is no national agreement to introduce an R18+ rating for video games at the upcoming Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting in July this year.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell.

"I asked my department for advice for options to pursue this course about a month ago, so obviously John Rau and I have been thinking along similar lines insofar that if uniform agreement on this [issue] cannot be reached, then it would appear that it would be left open to states and territories to pursue their own arrangements," Corbell told GameSpot AU.

"Simply accepting that there wouldn't be R18+ would be a ludicrous situation. [If this doesn't happen] we would have to consider going it alone and legislating for R18+. We haven't decided on this yet, however, but I have asked my department to prepare options for me because it is inevitable that we would have to consider this approach if there is no national agreement."

Yesterday, South Australia Attorney-General John Rau told GameSpot AU that his state's cabinet had approved a proposal to introduce R18+ for games and abolish the MA15+ classification for games in South Australia. This will be implemented if the federal government is forced, due to failure of other states and territories to reach unanimous agreement, to find other means to introduce the classification at a federal level, and thus allow each state to either enforce or reject the new rating.

However, Corbell is not yet at this stage; if he decides to follow South Australia's lead, he will have to get his own proposal passed through the ACT Cabinet.

"I'd have to get the ACT Cabinet to agree to it, but my Cabinet has already indicated its support for R18+ nationally, so I doubt they'd be opposed to having it solely in the ACT. What's unclear at this stage is if we need legislation or regulation to do this--I'm thinking whether this can be just achieved by a change to regulation, which a minister can do, rather than a change to the law," he said.

"I hope there will be national agreement on R18+ [at SCAG] but it's not looking hopeful at this stage. However, it's a bit early to predict all that. If the federal government finds a way to provide for an R18+ classification, then states and territories are going to have to consider their position. [In the past], states and territories have generally agreed we should try to deal with the matter uniformly but the federal government can decide to create the classification if it wants, and if they do decide to do this, then it's up to each state to follow or not."

However, Corbell stated that the ACT would not necessarily take a similar position to South Australia on abolishing the MA15+ category.

"I just want to make it clear that the ACT would only consider legislating ourselves in regards to this issue if there was no national agreement. But I think it's highly likely we will go down that path if that proves to be the case. But the MA15+ issue is a separate question. We are supportive of the [federal government's] draft guidelines into an R18+ classification for video games that provide for both the MA15+ and R18+ classification. We wouldn't necessarily follow South Australia down that path."

GameSpot AU will be reporting live from the SCAG meeting in July. For more on the issue, visit our previous coverage.

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