O'Connor: Banned games "unlikely" to make R18+ cut

Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor tells GameSpot it's unlikely that currently banned games will be reclassified even if an R18+ classification is introduced; remains hopeful that state and territories can reach a unanimous vote in support of R18+ at July's SCAG meeting.

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Last month, Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor told GameSpot AU he has high hopes for resolving the R18+ issue by July this year, relying on a unanimous vote in favour of introducing the adult classification for video games at the upcoming Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting in Adelaide.

However, the question of what will happen to games currently rated MA15+ and Refused Classification (RC) has to date remained unanswered. Now, in an interview with GameSpot AU, O'Connor has shed more light on the soon-to-be-finalised R18+ draft guidelines, saying that it would be unlikely that games that have been refused classification (that is, banned) by the Classification Board of Australia would be reclassified into the R18+ category should the new rating be introduced. What is far more likely to happen, according to O'Connor, is the reclassification of MA15+ titles as R18+ (with a view to removing the modifications of current MA15+ titles that have had to undergo changes in order to pass within the current guidelines).

O'Connor also told GameSpot AU he will "seek advice" on other options if state and territory attorneys-general fail to reach a unanimous vote on the issue in July.

Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor.

GameSpot AU: You keep mentioning that you will be considering "other options" should R18+ not get passed by consensus in July. What do you mean by this?

Brendan O'Connor: My wish is that all jurisdictions reach agreement [on R18+ for games]. However, there are different arrangements in different jurisdictions, so even when there is consent over an issue, each jurisdiction will approach it differently. My preference is that we should reach agreement because I think getting a consensus means the new reforms will work more effectively. What I’ve outlined to the attorneys-general at the SCAG meeting in New Zealand is that the Commonwealth believes these reforms are long overdue--they've been on the agenda for more than a decade. It's time to resolve the matter through discussion and agreement. However, I said I would take advice about what else we can do if this does not happen.

The reason I won't outline or foreshadow in detail what these other options are is because I want the focus to be on reaching agreement. I wrote to all jurisdictions yesterday and asked them to comment upon the draft guidelines that we put forward, and I'm asking them to get back to us by mid-April so we can work through any existing differences.

GS AU: Does the Commonwealth have the power to simply override SCAG if it wants to? Or are there other decision-making processes that must be done before this can happen?

BO: The Commonwealth will have to go through other decision-making processes before that can happen. But look, the issue here is public support: the public are overwhelmingly in support of introducing a classification that will allow adults to play adult games and protect children from harmful material. We've seen this support countless times: whether in the reviews or surveys or polls that we've conducted, the fact is that between 80 and 98 percent of people support R18+ for games in one way or another. I believe it's encumbered upon those who are resisting to explain their reasons. Yes, there may be some legitimate concerns about the guidelines, and because of this, I want to give the jurisdictions a chance to debate their differences. I'm still optimistic that they [the attorneys-general] will all come to the view that we need change.

GS AU: What's in the proposed guidelines? What do they say about a possible R18+ category and the current MA15+ category?

BO: The guidelines reflect the following propositions: one, that we need to allow for a set of classifications in games similar to those that we have in film; two, that we need to look at redefining the MA15+ category for games to make sure that games that are played by adults in other countries are not played by children in Australia; three, that we need to look at what a new R18+ classification for games would mean; and finally, that we need to maintain the current Refused Classification (RC) classification. I have significant concerns about games that depict gratuitous violence or sexual acts, and I want to make sure that the introduction of an R18+ classification would not allow such material into this country, or indeed any material that would offend a reasonable person.

GS AU: You've mentioned before that an R18+ for games could mean the reclassification of current MA15+ titles into the new category. What about current RC titles that are banned by law in Australia? Could they see a reclassification into R18+, should it be introduced?

BO: We don't refuse many games in Australia. But those games that are currently RC would most likely stay that way. The advice I have received is that it's far less likely that any game that has been RC would get into R18+ if the classification was introduced; it's far more likely that MA15+ games will be reclassified and fit more suitably into R18+. Having said that, it may be that some games that did not make it into MA15+ may find themselves in a position to get into R18+, but as always, these matters are entirely for the Classification Board. The reclassifying of MA15+ games would also mean that some of the modifications in current MA15+ games would no longer be necessary. My problem with these modifications and changes in MA15+ games is that it does not matter if the game has been modified to fit within the current MA15+ guidelines: the content itself is still adult and should not be allowed to be accessed by minors. At the moment, parents see the MA15+ sticker and think that it’s some sort of signal that the game in question is suitable for anyone under the age of 18, which means 12- and 13-year-olds are playing these games. This has to stop. It's time for our classification system to grow up.

GS AU: Last month, the Classification Board effectively banned Warner Bros.' fighting game Mortal Kombat, slapping an RC rating on the title. The appeal by Warner Bros. to the Classification Review Board was also unsuccessful, meaning that the game is currently banned for sale in Australia. What are your thoughts on this decision? Was it a fair one, given games currently rated MA15+ feature similar violent content?

BO: I'm seeking a brief on that decision because there has been public disquiet on the issue. However, I have to point out that this is a Classification Board issue. The government's role is to determine the rules, not to apply them. What I want to do is make sure the rules are effective. As for the Mortal Kombat decision, it has no bearing on my interest in reforming this area. My concerns are broader: I want to fix the rules, not look at one matter over another.

GS AU: If an R18+ rating for games is passed, do you think there needs to be stricter control at a retail level where R18+ games will be sold?

BO: I definitely think it should be something we talk about, yes. However, I think the introduction of R18+ will act as a much better guide for parents than anything that happens at the point of sale. This is because parents will realise that these games are not suitable for children. They will suddenly become more involved in the decision process if R18+ for games is passed. Is it fail-safe? No. But hey, just because people speed doesn't mean we can't have laws that govern how fast cars should be allowed to go. Laws send a message about what's acceptable behaviour in the community.

GS AU: It's great to see the federal government finally fighting for this issue alongside the gaming community. But why did it take you so long to form your position on this matter?

BO: The first thing I did as Minister of Home Affairs was seek to get information on the current classification system in Australia. We had academics review the causal links between social behaviour and games; we had reviews done, surveys conducted, etc. I didn't state my position before because I did not want to prejudice the process until we had those results. I also prefer to do these things in-house with the government. But once we had all the evidence, I knew it was time to make our position public, especially given the overwhelming community support for R18+. And I think doing so, we have freed up the debate in the public forum.

As Minster for Home Affairs, I have brought this issue to the state and territory attorneys-general three times. We have to make a decision now, because we cannot continue to go round in circles.

GS AU: Thanks for your time, minister.

BO: Thank you.

Stay tuned to GameSpot AU as we bring you more R18+ news. For more on the issue, visit GameSpot AU's previous coverage.

Discussion

76 comments
thuban
thuban

@organbank it doesnt effect you? why because u get the BANNED games in illegally?. ok say u get it in the country, great. wanna play online. might work -only theres nothing but international games playing because majority of AU CANT PLAY IT- so ur online experience is rubbish. or what about DLC? forget that completely. now is it starting to effect you? or are u still happy cause atleast u can hold contraband in ur hands?

thuban
thuban

@wbezuidenhout what sihts me the most about that is how almost every time one party suggests a bill or new legislation of some kind the "opposition" will be against it regardless of opinion, its just "the thing to do". if one party wants something the other will get in its way. and this is what has happened here. only now, its just the stubborn old farts that are not "sensibly" sitting down

kevmanNZ
kevmanNZ

Lets make a decision once and for all on this issue. Its becoming a pain in the backside

kevmanNZ
kevmanNZ

Im getting sick and tired of hearing the R18+ Issue. I support it but there are more pressing concerns right now

wbezuidenhout
wbezuidenhout

I see a lot of people blaming politicians and whatnot, and while that is pretty much correct, I think the main problem is the 'unanimous ruling' BS. Unanimous ruling is NOT democracy, it is the complete opposite - it answers to the minority. If you apply that method, and have 99 people support the rule and 1 decides against it, guess what, we end up with that 1 person's decision being the deciding factor. Put it to an effing vote, count the hands and if more people want it than the people that don't want it, f__k the people who don't want it and implement it. Oh wait, you did that, and got 98% in support of implementing it... In short - get rid of the 'unanimous vote' requirement, vote as the people who put you in that office voted, and implement the R18+ rating. And screw the mythical 'silent majority', if you don't vote, you don't get to complain about the results.

Shinkada
Shinkada

@organbank Seriously, for the millionth time: Customs is now fining anyone caught importing a banned game up to $110,000. And that is the sound of Australia's "it isn't affecting me yet so who cares" attitude catching up with it. Now it's affecting you. Good job. @evilkenshin1 Because Australian law is screwed up, basically. Even though our Bill of Rights isn't an officially legal document it is still often used to create or shape laws. It's been years since I studied this crap but that's the short of it; it's an unofficial document that is used to create official laws. It's stupid but that's how it is because our politicians are stupid. re: rioting, the basis of law is that you can only make a law if you can enforce it. Anarchy is illegal but if 90% of the population decides they're getting screwed by the government and the only way to fix it is with an upheaval, there's nothing the 10% can do. It's the basis of democracy; for all the laws saying we can't, if the majority gets angry enough, we can. And the more of our freedoms Canberra decides to take away, the less extreme of an idea that becomes.

organbank
organbank

Meh, who gives a crap. Just buy games online. You will be killing two birds with one stone: 1. Make 'bricks and mortar' rip off merchants go out of business. Seriously, why pay AU$80-130 for a game whne you can pay AU$50? 2. Never have to worry about the stupid Australian rating system ever again. This "issue" is going to be kicked around for years to come. Our politicians are too busy working out ways to make us pay more taxes to really give a crap about game ratings!

evilkenshin1
evilkenshin1

@Shinkada, then how is it someone can be sued for defamation we are not america with a bill of rights that says we have freedom of speech (which is why defamation can get you sued, racist comments can get you charged by the police etc) but re your example legally (as in written in law) we cannot protest without the permission of the government and rioting is illegal (also written in law) so a bit different from an "implied right" and going to canberra with pitchforks would just see you arrested under anti terrorism laws.

Shinkada
Shinkada

@evilkenshin1 I'm well aware of the law. I know it's only implied but it's a pretty heavy implication. We have our "implied" right to freedom the same way the government has an "implied" right for us to not march to Canberra with pitchforks. Even though we are legally not guaranteed it it's seen as incredibly, INCREDIBLY wrong to not give the right regardless.

izzy_reb_02
izzy_reb_02

Plus where does MA15 fits in then? Does that mean MA15 is only low volience o.o. We Still want our adult freedom of games. Like not every country is perfect but sumhow our country is strict on Super Bad voilence. But to me, if a game came through other countries and it gets banned here then, u culd say we have a word bout how its unfair. Then soon we get to see, that the guidelines on the R18+ be like similar to the old MA15+ guidelines, where we want the guidelines almost identical like the other countries (like accept high and strong volience but not such or such) coz we want to feel like we still have our freedom of choice. I just feel sad D; and want to move to another country if things dont rock out evenly like the other countries

izzy_reb_02
izzy_reb_02

But of course, the games that have been refused is been done by the classifcation board, so the only annoying thing bout it is, that they may try one more time to appeal mortal kombat for R18+ stanard. The one thing im worried bout is the guidelines.. It feels as though. MA15+ has turned into R18+ where we still feel cut back since there be other games we aussie wanna try but they prob get banned aneway. For Example if Doom 4 came out it may get refussed due to volience but then we may have against for that and say like other countires have appeal the game for R18+, so why cant our country appeal the same way as they do

Spacerac
Spacerac

I don't think this means they'll still ban the games, I think it means games that were already refused may not be allowed, which still sucks. I also think they mean games that don't belong in MA15 (GTA4 for ex) would get reclassfied, not that Uncharted suddenly becomes 18+ material. Still I hope all goes well for Aussie gamers. PS Exchange between me and an Aussie friend awhile ago: Me: At least we don't have banned games Him: At least we don't have a bunch of murders Me: Hey, we just have more stupid people, that ain't the games' fault.

Spacerac
Spacerac

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Draconous79
Draconous79

@jubdeidamasta Yes unfortunately it does, they recently stated that anyone importing these banned games from overseas could get fined from 4 x the value of the product or even up to something like $100,000... as for online there would probably be something that would through a spanner in the works like region specific activation or IP filtering (correct me if i'm wrong though). The whole MK situation just plain sucks... i was really looking forward to that game...

Readial
Readial

To the politicians in australia thinking they are making a difference, pfft... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA, *snort, OHAHAHAHAHHAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH!!!!

damaster101
damaster101

This is why all politicians are useless, its part of an outdated social structure.

bahamut_au
bahamut_au

If the model for R18+ is just to rebrand MA15+, I think we should all violently change position and become ANTI-R18+. 15-17 year olds do not need to be protected from Halo Reach, Uncharted, Crysis or Fable 3 - this will make HUGE holes in Aussie gaming sales and guess what? Game prices locally will become even more expensive. GG O'Connor, useless miserable politician.

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

At the very least they should allow those banned games to be imported instead of blocking them at customs like with Mortal Kombat.

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

The only thing to give me slightly violent urges are the way the government treats us now. I thought it was important to say that. It's a shame that they don't seem to realise how much they're abusing our rights. Real life crimes have much more influence on people than virtual violence.

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

Curious question does this keep you guys from getting "banned" games from online retailers or friends over seas?

AceBalls
AceBalls

There are too many old people in charge of things that mean nothing to them.

Shadow_zone
Shadow_zone

What is the point of introducing the R rating if they are not going to allow games like mortal kombat in? It's just stupid! The whole reason for the R rating debate is because adult gamers are sick of being treated like children. He says 'anything which could be offensive to a reasonable person' will be refused classification.. How do they define what's offensive to a reasonable person?!!

evilkenshin1
evilkenshin1

@ Shinkada your grave mistake is australia only has an implied right to freedom of speech we don't actually have it put into law.

CamoBullo
CamoBullo

Hold on, let me get this straight: Even if R18+ is made, games like Mortal Kombat will be still banned. So, in definition - if other games get banned, despite we having an R18+ rating in future, it'll make the rating seem overall pointless. Now, this rating is for ADULTS, so I think it's the adult gamers that will feel insulted by this decision. I am almost of age to legally buy MA15+ games, but come on, if you're going to have an adult rating, make adult games available for it. Now, I know it says "unlikely", but they are bound to change their minds. Aren't we supposed to live in a democracy? It feels like we're in the early 1900s, rather than 2011. Make up your damn minds, and make the right choice.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

@kate_jones Agreed. What a bunch of paranoid fools. Then again, based on the history of those in power in Australia, limiting the freedom of people is the norm. This situation with MK is just another example.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

@TomoEK9 I know. I read the GS reports too. I wouldn't have expected them to actually open people's mail but after reading kate_jones's comment to me, apparently they do. I guess that no matter what you do they are treating this game like drugs. It's madness.

Grovel
Grovel

So let me get this right. I can go to a brothel in Australia, I just can't buy a violent video game?

TomoEK9
TomoEK9

@ kavadias1981 I am not in Australia but I am following the news. Considering all the hype around MK9, their government has said they will be keeping a look out for the game and anyone who will be attempting to import it into the country

kate_jones
kate_jones

@kavadias1981 yes customs can open our mail, they do it often enough. Though searching for video games instead of drugs and weapons is so wrong.

samuraicowboy23
samuraicowboy23

I really don't understand why we don't use the same system as the kiwi's.

wwesniper
wwesniper

All I got out of that was that MA 15 will now be MA 18 and RC will still be RC. it doesn't sound like they want to change the rules at all, it just sounds like they want MA 15 games to be rated MA 18 and still be able to ban the same games they have been for the past few years. What a crock of ****.

alienmlbyrne0
alienmlbyrne0

How is it that us adult Aussies can't make our own decisions about what games we can and can't play, Yet we can easily send our Husbands, boyfriends, Sons, etc... off to get killed in some pointless war? F**K U Australian Government!!!

TBoneTony
TBoneTony

What we really need, is an independant body who can make their own decisions like the ESRB or the PEGI system that is not dictated by those in government, But to do that...would require the support of the Australian Government.... And seeing how they like to prommise allot, but deliver only the things that suit them...well...I am not holding my breath over this at all. Stuff this stupid 'so called free' country...I am moving out of here...

TBoneTony
TBoneTony

To be honest....when politicians decide what is given a rating and what is banned, all you get is trouble. Laws created by government are not always designed to help the people, they are designed to help the government keep their powers over the people, and yet when people die in wars those politicans say that they died for the country, when in reality they died all because government sent them to war. Sad...but that is the fact of life, even in countries that call themselves "Free" and "Democracy"... When I finish university, I rather live in Canada or Japan, if there is even a Japan to go to depending on the recent disaster over there.

UncleTrick
UncleTrick

@XBLACKXVIPERX - why would you gloat about something like this? It's not helping, and you're missing the real issues. Australian industry is being damaged and their citizens are being stripped of their fundamental right to make their own decisions. We may not have as much censorship as other areas on the world, but I can tell you that we do not have as much freedom as we'd like to think we do. We have our own nonsense to contend with so worry about that instead of insulting the Aussies with your adolescent gloating.

supertegwyn
supertegwyn

Can I say something? The reason we Aussies don't have a R18+ rating is due to one man: Michael Atkinson. He blocked the draft until his retirement last year, and now with the NSW state government voting coming up it has been (temporarily) pushed back to July. You people seem to think we live in some sort of Socialist Police state.

Sablicious
Sablicious

Import or pirate -- as simple as that. You hurt an industry like gaming enough and they'll let the dogs of war slip and the VOTES will soon follow. Whinging, zit riddled, fatso gamers QQ-ing about not enough gore to cram into their disk drives will always fall on deaf ears. Voice your opinions with NOUS: get a hold of these games any way you can and when you're done with them, disseminate them as pre-owned or even give them away. That way the games WILL fall into the hands of those the govt are 'supposedly' protecting (*faps*), making an even bigger mockery (if that's possible) of these antequted, Draconian 'laws'. REMEMBER: All laws are arbitrary and rarely if ever speak for the majority. They're created by those with power to keep those without in their place. There is a chasm of difference between malum in se and malum prohibitum and the two concepts are usually as mutually exclusive as any two things can be.

dghillza
dghillza

Let me add to this.. All the work is done... PEGI (Europe) and ESRB (America) Clearly these tossers need to be seen as though they are doing something useful - while they stuff there pockets with tax payers money

dghillza
dghillza

What a waste of good tax payers money, the whole lot of them are a bunch of tossers barking about nonsensical bull "other options" , "seek advise" Jesus Christ how F**ken difficult can it be? Every gamer knows exactly how to get "Not Classified" games and it's only the local industry that gets hurt.. gamers get thier games one way or the other.So I guess in other words the whole fiasco is the government doesn't give a S**t about local industry and business.

DarknessMageX
DarknessMageX

LOL. Then what is the bloody point of doing this?! XD

DAMSOG
DAMSOG

I am an adult and the choice has been taken away from me, this harks back to the old days of Bjelke-petersen who banned books/film in QLD because it wasn't in the best interests of the state. The problem here is choice, we have none because the government is safe guarding the populace against this perceived threat.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

@TomoEK9 I don't see how they can slap a fine on retailers who don't even live in Australia. I think they are referring to domestic importers. But regardless of that, there is always eBay right. There is no way they can detect a video game or which video game, is coming through the post. Not unless they physically open people's mail. Do they do that in Australia?

SuprSaiyanRockr
SuprSaiyanRockr

@ computerandy909 Because we are not a real democracy. If we were, we would be able to vote on the issue, with an outcome that mattered (not just an opinion poll)... Unfortunately, that would mean a lot of people who have no idea that games existed for adults would get to vote... Basically, we live in an overly conservatist nation that either forces people to vote about something that they don't understand, or makes the decision for us.

SuprSaiyanRockr
SuprSaiyanRockr

Short of a game that involves raping people or killing infants (actual infants, not zombie/monster infants like in Dead Space), I can't see why any game should fail to recieve an R18 rating.

Shinkada
Shinkada

"I have significant concerns about games that depict gratuitous violence or sexual acts, and I want to make sure that the introduction of an R18+ classification would not allow such material into this country, or indeed any material that would offend a reasonable person." So basically the deal is: we're allowed to have an R18+ rating as long as games that should be in it get banned anyway? Here's an idea. How about, we get a ****ing clue and realize any individual above 18 can view or create any material they want as long as it doesn't break the law. You know, that crazy little thing called freedom of speech. This is no different to every other progress vs stubborn idiots debate. Just rule in the favour of people making their own goddamn decisions and go back to discussing actual important and not bleedingly obvious things like... Oh wait I pretty much just ended every political debate, didn't I?

DarkDamo
DarkDamo

Keeping mature games out of kids hands is one part of the issue, but if we are stiull denied access to adult games with an adult rating the system is still broken.

Nitronic12
Nitronic12

I've got absolutely no problem with 15 year olds not being able to play games that are violent, they should be in school focusing on studies...

skaiferules
skaiferules

So they are basically saying we are going to give you r 18 but not really........ man I love our government

TomoEK9
TomoEK9

@ kavadias1981 Because most online retailers have started to refuse shipping to Australia if a game is banned, and the massive fine that one can be slapped with if caught. With MK9 it was openly stated that a fine up to 110k can be imposed to anyone caught illegally importing the game