The Greens Party has been quick to take advantage of its newfound power in Australian politics following its decision to support Labor in forming a minority federal government. In the past month, the Australian Greens announced its intent to introduce two private member's bills--the first regarding euthanasia, and the second regarding same-sex marriage. However, another issue the Greens Party feels strongly about won't be getting the same push: the introduction of an R18+ classification for games.
Despite strongly proclaiming its support for an R18+ rating for games before the previous federal election, the Australian Greens has decided against introducing a private member's bill in parliament to push for the legislation needed to bring in the classification. Instead, the Greens are choosing to focus on the outcome of the upcoming Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting in December before making future decisions on the party's plans regarding video game classification.
For the Greens' private member's bills to pass (and therefore become law), a majority of MPs in the Lower House and senators in the Senate need to vote for it, which has become an easier prospect in the Lower House given the Labor Government's minority status (that is, requiring the support of the Greens and two Independents to govern). For the bills to be successful, the Greens would need the support of either the Labor Government or the Coalition. This opportunity also means that the Greens could table a private member's bill to pave the way for the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games; however, the party has decided against doing this for fear it would upset Labor and the current progress made on the issue through SCAG.
Speaking to GameSpot AU, Australian Greens Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam said that the party still considers R18+ an important issue, but it is not convinced a private member's bill is the way to garner support for the classification's introduction.
"I'm not convinced [a private member's bill] is the way to go," Ludlam said. "The government would certainly oppose it, and it's not easy to conclude that the Opposition wouldn't either. Even if we achieve the support of the Independents, we still wouldn't be able to pass the legislation until next July and we'd find ourselves in a quagmire of other issues before then."
Ludlam believes adding extra pressure on the government with a proposal to introduce R18+ for games would inhibit the progress made by 2009's R18+ public consultation, the results of which showed an overwhelming community support for the classification.
"We have a successful R18+ public campaign process right now. I think we should keep putting pressure on SCAG to come up with a cooperative agreement and avoid pushing people back into a confrontational position. We don't want to throw a hand grenade into the progress that is being made."
When pushed on the nature of this progress, given the government's backtrack over the issue earlier this year, Ludlam said it is no longer a case of "if" but of "when."
"The frustration is obvious, but this is how community campaigns work. SCAG was overwhelmed by the R18+ submissions, which were coherent and intelligent. We cannot be discouraged by this; if they want more consultation, this is what we have to give them."
"The debate has certainly shifted. [The Greens'] job now is to make sure R18+ for games happens quickly--the last thing we want to do is provoke a confrontation between the government and the states when what we actually want is a harmonisation of the classification system."
Despite this, Ludlam said the Greens will keep the idea of a private member's bill in mind.
"We'll certainly keep the proposition for legislation; however, I feel the best course forward for the Greens right now is pushing SCAG to make headway on the issue. Gamers shouldn't get discouraged. If SCAG does call another public consultation, we have to be there with a louder, more coherent voice."
The R18+ for games issue has been confirmed for the next SCAG meeting, which is scheduled for December 10 in Canberra. Stay tuned to GameSpot AU for more news on R18+. For more on video game classification in Australia, check out GameSpot AU's Aussie Games Classification FAQ feature.