Aussie R18+ postmortem Q&A with Brendan O'Connor

Federal Minister for Home Affairs says he will press the Australian Classification Board to reclassify MA15+ titles in the advent of an R18+ rating; says SCAG ministers did not vote on introducing the classification.

by

Yesterday in Canberra, Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor announced that after four and a half hours of deliberation, federal, state, and territory attorneys-general had agreed to draft preliminary guidelines on the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia.

Ministers met yesterday at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) in Canberra to discuss the future of the adult game classification. O'Connor told media that there was general consensus from the meeting that Australia's classification system as it relates to games is in need of an overhaul. He stated that the proposed guidelines--to be drafted by the state and territory governments--on how the possible introduction of an R18+ rating would affect the current MA15+ and Refused Classification brackets will be presented at the next SCAG meeting, scheduled for March 2011.

Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor.

Following the SCAG meeting, GameSpot AU talked to O'Connor to get his thoughts on the process that is to follow and the reaction of his fellow ministers on the possibility of an R18+ rating for games. Below is a transcript of that conversation, in which O'Connor states the importance of redefining the MA15+ genre should an R18+ classification be introduced. He also states he will appeal to the Classification Board to reclassify MA15+ titles in the advent of an R18+ rating for games and offers his thoughts on how a possible change in the NSW State Government may affect the next SCAG meeting.

GameSpot AU: Tell us more about these proposed guidelines. Are we talking about the same guidelines that exist within the National Classification Scheme that define how films and video games should be rated?

Brendan O'Connor: What we mean by "guidelines" is, actually, law. These guidelines will be the legal parameters to be used by the Australian Classification Board to classify R18+ games. This is a prerequisite to introducing R18+ for games. All the federal, state, and territory attorneys-general's departments will work together to draft these guidelines, which will be presented at the next SCAG meeting in March 2011.

GS AU: By the time SCAG meets again in March 2011, it is very likely that one or more states will have a new attorney-general (if, for example, NSW acquires a new Liberal state government). What will this mean for the R18+ for games decision? What will happen if the new attorneys-general do not support the introduction of the classification, after coming this far?

BO: Well, it all depends, doesn't it? Assuming that the Opposition wins in NSW, it will obviously depend on what policy they are going to take towards this issue going into the election. I cannot determine what will happen. But, I can say that there is a commitment by all nine governments to move forward with this, and I believe that if we build a consensus around the proposed guidelines, it will make it more likely for change to occur. We have to keep in mind that this is not a left or right argument--this is a commonsense approach to adult-only entertainment. This approach will be the most useful in bringing about change.

GS AU: You've stated in the past that you want to look at the possibility of reclassifying those MA15+ titles that you believe should be rated R18+, should Australia acquire this classification. If we do acquire R18+ for games in the future, will you petition the Australian Classification Board to look at reclassifying MA15+ titles?

BO: Yes. I will ask Classification Board to reclassify MA15+ games to R18+ if we do get an R18+ for games, and if they do not already do this on their own without being prompted. I just want to stress that this is something that will have to happen if we introduce R18+, because clearly there are some games that do not fit into the MA15+ category but are classified as such. I am very concerned about the MA15+ category at the moment--we need to redefine it when we look at giving the R18+ classification a definition. We need to do both these things before an agreement can be reached on introducing R18+ for games.

GS AU: It sounds like you feel very strongly about the MA15+ category. Will you pursue the redefinition of this category separately to the R18+ draft guidelines, or is this something that will be done together? Say, for example, if a decision on R18+ continues to be delayed, will you instead switch your focus to redefining the MA15+ category, or is it a case of one cannot happen without the other?

BO: The MA15+ issue is part of the same process; it's contextual. Redefining MA15+ is about children and minors using games that are suitable for them and being protected from games that are not suitable for them. It's all going to be done together as part of the same process. The draft guidelines will address both the R18+ and the MA15+ category definitions.

GS AU: Let's talk about today's SCAG meeting. What was the general feeling inside that room? Do you think the other attorneys-general share your passion for reworking Australia's classification system as it applies to video games?

BO: What we had in the room today was genuine interest in looking at improving Australia's classification scheme. It was a feeling of goodwill towards this process, and all of the attorneys-general showed an open mind to the process.

GS AU: Did you actually vote on introducing an R18+ classification for games?

BO: We didn't vote on R18+; we voted on the process. We looked at things like: What will an R18+ classification mean? How will the MA15+ category be affected? Only by determining the answers to these questions in more detail through the proposed guidelines can we ever hope to reach a decision.

GS AU: What about the pro and against R18+ presentations that were made to ministers during the SCAG meeting today? Were they helpful? Did they manage to sway anyone's opinion this way or that?

BO: The presentations were useful; I'm sure that people took different things from them, but it was important to have a cross-section of views represented, and I think it was worthwhile.

GS AU: Will the attorneys-general have to make a unanimous vote on introducing the draft guidelines before making yet another unanimous vote on introducing R18+ for games at the next SCAG meeting in March?

BO: We will look to agreeing to the guidelines first; then, depending on the outcome of that vote, we may then look at R18+. We have to get an agreement on the guidelines first with a unanimous vote of course; however, if there is agreement, the matter can move forward effectively.

Look, the thing is we have nine governments who all have different concerns, so it's not simple! People think this decision is easy, but it's not. It's not as simple as "introduce it" or "don't introduce it." It's a concern and it's not easy to come to a decision, particularly given that technology is changing, and we have so many things to factor in. I don't criticise people [the other attorneys-general] for wanting to look at all the facts carefully and consider all these things before making their decision. I've spent a lot of time considering this, and I know more about this than some of the other attorneys-general.

GS AU: How do you think the public debate around the issue of R18+ for games has progressed? How do you think the games industry has carried itself in this debate particularly?

BO: To be honest, I'm not concerned with how people act; people can say what they want. At the end of the day it is the government that has to make the decision. But from what I have seen, I think the debate has been handled very well.

GS AU: Thanks for your time, Minister.

For more on the issue, visit GameSpot AU's previous coverage.

Discussion

14 comments
CrouchingWeasel
CrouchingWeasel

@MaxStar360 "Did I misread that or, at the end, did he actually say that the public's opinion on R18+ doesn't matter?!? He said "people can say what they want. At the end of the day it is the government that has to make the decision.". WTH?!?" The interviewer was referring to government perception over the behaviour of the pro R18+ faction during the campaign to introduce the rating. The Minister was merely stating that any isolated incidents of threatening or inappropriate behaviour/comments would not reflect badly upon the pro R18+ group as a whole nor would such incidents negatively affect the decision the government has to make. If our opinion didn't matter then they wouldn't have sourced wider public input on the matter.

hotfiree
hotfiree

@R_evolution_Jay Totally agreed with everything you said, its ridiculous.

R_evolution_Jay
R_evolution_Jay

@hotfiree Agreed! absolutely ridiculous pricing in oz, no good reason for it when our dollar is so high, they whinge about losing profit if they lower prices... well then they would get more ppl buying at that lower price than none at the high price... it's like primary school logic and they don't get it, sad, I'm all for buying online WAY cheaper, screw the stores here, most are sold overseas anyway so whats the difference.

hotfiree
hotfiree

Wouldnt matter if they even did bring it in. No way Im buying games in this country for $120 when I can get the exact same product overseas for $20-60 Dead Rising 2 has a sale on here, cheapest in stores was $70 Cheapest on ebay within australia was $60 I got it from hong kong, new in seal with a preorder bonus for $20. Im very happy to send my dollars overseas with those prices.

smp13
smp13

What is wrong with you last 5 or 6 people? Did you even read through the article here? This is the best outcome we could have reasonably expected at this stage. Any lawmaking and governing process takes time and discussions - If it doesn't, you should be concerned as to whether it has been given due consideration. They have actually ALL decided to take the next steps required towards a new classification system. This is new, this is good. It cant be brought in immediately, since there are many 'guidelines' within a classification system that must be decided on. Try a bit of optimism for a change, people. Whole site is so darn pessimistic.

Afrocrab
Afrocrab

Well it suits whata crap ass job hes doing. Or is that just me?

Afrocrab
Afrocrab

I love how Brendans name was shortened to BO. Suits him

AceBalls
AceBalls

So, what Brendan is saying is that the entire meeting was a waste of time? These AG's had more than enough time to consider this issue with all the materials before them, and they have done absolutely NOTHING for YEARS now. It's quite obvious that they don't give a rats buttocks about any of it.

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

Now Australia knows how the US feels when most of the politicians lobby against everything that would improve our country..

Inconnux
Inconnux

The fact that it has taken this long, with so little accomplished, shows to the world that the Australian political system is broken... or filled with incompetent morons.

MaxStar360
MaxStar360

Did I misread that or, at the end, did he actually say that the public's opinion on R18+ doesn't matter?!? He said "people can say what they want. At the end of the day it is the government that has to make the decision.". WTH?!?

Dahvood
Dahvood

Well, its a step forward, and it appears to be positive, so hurray for that

johnnyauau
johnnyauau

@R_evolution_Jay I agree R_evolution_Jay. I get what Brendan is doing. So the guidelines go first then R18+ next. He's not jumping the gun. He's really pull the available evidence at his disposal and he's really pushing for common sense. Understandably and I can't criticize them at the moment because Christmas and New Years Day is coming, and we don't like to have hot headed, exhausted mind attorney generals blowing the process. Anyway, happy Christmas Jay.

R_evolution_Jay
R_evolution_Jay

So... now they have to vote on whether they want to vote for the R18 issue... lovely.