Australia to introduce R18+ for games

"In principle" agreement by censorship ministers will see R18+ for games introduced at a federal level; Federal Minister for Home Affairs wants to see adult rating before end of year.

ADELAIDE--The federal government has announced Australia will introduce the long-awaited R18+ classification for video games, saying the process will only take "a couple of months."

Australia's federal, state, and territory ministers met in Adelaide today at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting (SCAG) to discuss the fate of the adult rating. Despite NSW being the only state to abstain from the vote on R18+, all other eight jurisdictions agreed to its introduction once the proposed guidelines are approved by the respective cabinets.

Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor said that he would go ahead and introduce the R18+ classification for games at a federal level, and it would then be up to each state and territory to decide whether or not it adopts it.

"This is a big step forward in the long-running debate on classification of computer games for adults," O'Connor said today. "Once introduced, the classification will afford adults the opportunity to view material designed for adults. It is a credit to all jurisdictions that the meeting has now been able to achieve agreement over what is a complex matter in classification policy."

Despite O'Connor's insistence that the issue be resolved during today's meeting, NSW abstained from the R18+ vote today, while all other states and territories agreed in principle to the introduction of an R18+ for games. NSW said it would go back to its own cabinet to decide and that this decision would not take long. NSW is considering calling an out-of-session cabinet meeting about the issue.

O'Connor says it may now only be a matter of months before the adult rating is introduced. The proposed R18+ draft guidelines were once again amended at today's meeting, changes that require some jurisdictions to seek approval from their respective cabinets. Once this is done, the federal government will begin drafting the legislation necessary to introduce the R18+ classification for games.

Earlier this week, the NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith announced his decision to abstain from the R18+ vote at today's SCAG meeting, effectively delaying the process yet again due to the national requirement that any changes to the National Classification Code require the unanimous agreement among all nine federal, state, and territory censorship ministers. After Smith's announcement, both Western Australia and Victoria declared they were seeking further amendments to the R18+ guidelines.

This delay was one of a long line of setbacks for the adult classification, which has been on the SCAG agenda since 2002. In December last year, the federal government announced its public support for the rating, before postponing another vote on the issue before the end of the year.

Earlier this year, O'Connor's office publicly released the draft guidelines on R18+ and hinted at seeking other options should state and territory censorship ministers fail to reach consensus on the issue soon.

Other states have been ready to adopt the adult classification for games since April this year, with South Australia and the ACT eager to "go it alone" if necessary, provided the commonwealth finds a way to introduce R18+ at a federal level without the unanimous agreement of all states and territories. South Australia went a step further, proposing to abolish the MA15+ category in the state and fold it into the R18+ rating.


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