With industry surveys showing that the majority of Australians support the introduction of an R18+ classification for games in Australia, most Aussie gamers would have naturally assumed that those results would be replicated in the federal government's public consultation into the issue. A preliminary count of responses received has vindicated that view, with a Senate Estimates Committee Hearing last week unveiling that out of 1,084 processed responses thus far, only 11 had been anti-R18+.
Helen Daniels, Assistant Secretary of the Copyright and Classification Policy Branch, told a Senates Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in Canberra last week that as of February 1, 2010, the government had received 6,239 submissions into the R18+ public consultation. Of that figure, the Classification Policy Branch had only processed 1,084 so far and found that only 11 were against R18+. Of the total number of submissions, 5,465 had been sent in via e-mail, 447 by fax, and 327 by post.
The government's public consultation process is aiming to find out the Australian public's view on the introduction of an adult classification for games in Australia and was launched by the Federal Attorney-General's Department in December last year. Submissions for the process will close on February 28, 2010. A spokesperson for the Federal Attorney-General’s Department told GameSpot AU last week that the results of the public consultation would be distributed to all of Australia's Attorneys-General to "inform their decision whether Australia should have an R18+ classification for computer games." From there, all of the Attorneys-General will need to unanimously agree on its introduction before it can be passed as law in Australia.
While the positive response to the consultation may come as no surprise to gamers, those on the other side of the debate were tipping a similar result. Outspoken anti-R18+ advocate South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson told GameSpot AU earlier this year that because R18+ was an issue that most Australians didn't care enough about, the responses to the public consultation would be skewed towards gamers.
"I don't think the discussion paper presents a fair and balanced view of the issue without pictures of the games that would be rated R18+," Atkinson said. "I think the majority of the population are unfamiliar with these games, and without images, they won’t be able to imagine them in their mind's eye. They’ll have no idea how violent or sexually depraved they are, and what kind of torture, drug use, and blood spatter they include.
"I also believe that very few people outside the gaming community will have a say in this public consultation, which will mean an overwhelming response in support of R18+."
Stay tuned to GameSpot AU for more information on the public consultation process. Meanwhile, check out GameSpot AU's Aussie Games Classification FAQ feature.