A proposed public consultation process for the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games in Australia has suffered a setback, with a draft discussion paper on the issue rejected by South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson.
In March this year, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) announced that it would be asking the public for its opinion on the R18+ classification for video games in Australia. A discussion paper was drawn up to seek public opinion submissions on the issue; the paper included an overview of the relevant research and literature and a proposal to amend the classification guidelines.
However, Atkinson withdrew his support for the discussion paper, and it was subsequently not released to the public. A spokesperson for the minister said that Atkinson "gave consideration to the draft but was unable to support the release of that document," but he did not specify reasons why. Atkinson has been a long-standing opponent of the introduction of an R18+ rating for games in Australia.
"The next meeting of the ministers will occur in November so the matter can be further discussed then if ministers choose," Atkinson's spokesperson told GameSpot AU.
Despite the fact that Atkinson is leaving the door open for more discussion, other attorneys general are becoming despondent on the issue. Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls said, "Whilst the issue is still formally on the SCAG agenda, it now appears unlikely that there will be unanimity from all jurisdictions to proceed further at this stage with introducing an R18+ category for computer games."
Unlike films and DVDs, which can carry an adult R18+ rating, games in Australia can only be rated MA15+. For the law to change, all of Australia's various state, territory, and federal attorneys general need to agree on its introduction. A single national classification code, agreed between the Australian government and the states and territories, sets out the principles to be followed in making classification decisions. The Australian government attorney general's department is responsible for Australian government classification policy and supports the minister for home affairs in meetings with state and territory censorship ministers through the Classification Policy Branch.
Ron Curry, the CEO of Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, said today he would push ahead with plans to petition the federal government on the introduction of the R18+ classification for video games, despite this recent drawback.
Speaking at the launch of the Interactive Australia 2009 report (IA9)--the latest study into Australian gaming habits--Curry said the IEAA was determined to keep the issue circulating within government departments.
"We'll continue to work with government and policy advisors and various departments to maintain it on the agenda," Curry said. "To us, what it seems like is that Mr. Atkinson is actually censoring debate on censorship, and there's a whole lot of irony in that," Curry said of Atkinson's decision. "We're going to try and put the paper forward again as soon as possible."
The IA9 report showed an overwhelming public response on the issue of classification, with 91 percent of adults supporting the introduction of the R18+ rating for video games.