While news from recent weeks has indicated growing support for an adult classification for video games among some of Australia's leading politicians--including both the Gillard Government and the Coalition--the only opinion that matters now is that of the country's state and territory attorneys-general, who will be asked to vote on whether or not they support the introduction of R18+ for games in Australia at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting (SCAG) this Friday in Canberra.
Ahead of SCAG, GameSpot AU has tracked down all eight attorneys-general who will be responsible for the outcome of the meeting. For an adult classification for games to be introduced, all of Australia's state, territory, and federal governments must unanimously agree on its implementation.
Tasmania has joined the ACT and the federal government in its support of the R18+ classification; other ministers remained neutral on the issue, waiting until Friday's SCAG meeting to make up their minds.
This is the third time in two years GameSpot AU has surveyed Australia's attorneys-general. The first survey, conducted in February 2009, found South Australia opposed to R18+ for video games with then Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, Victoria, and the ACT in support of R18+, and NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Western Australia, and the federal government all declining to state a position.
The second survey, conducted in February 2010 found only one supporter of R18+: the ACT. The rest of the states and territories stated no position or declined to comment.
The view of Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor--who will be leading the R18+ issue at SCAG this week--has shifted since May this year when he stated that more consultation on the issue was needed. In October he called on Australia's "silent majority" to speak out, before announcing just last month that he is keen to make progress on R18+ and again this week that he fully supports the introduction of R18+ for games.
A recent government-commissioned Galaxy Survey phone poll into the issue found that 80 percent of 2,226 respondents supported the introduction of an R18+ for video games in Australia. The survey also found that most respondents in each state supported the classification: Western Australians showed 84 percent in favor, Victoria 82 percent, Tasmania 82 percent, South Australia 81 percent, Northern Territory 81 percent, Queensland 80 percent, New South Wales 77 percent, and the ACT 77 percent.
Below are the responses from the attorneys-general on whether or not they support an R18+ rating for games in Australia.
Attorney-General Christian Porter
"The Minister will participate in further discussions at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General meeting before determining his position on the matter," a spokeswoman for Mr. Porter told GameSpot AU. Recent media reports suggest Porter is under pressure from his party room--composed of 12 Liberal and National government MPs--who do not support the introduction of R18+ for games.
Attorney-General Lara Giddings
"The Tasmanian Government supports in principle the introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games," a spokesman for the minister told GameSpot AU.
Attorney-General John Hatzistergos
"The NSW Government supports a national approach to classification based on public consultation. The National Classification Scheme is based on the premise that classification decisions should represent the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults. The position of censorship ministers on this issue should therefore be informed by views of the broader community. The consultation process on this issue has now ended and the NSW Government is currently in the process of finalising its position on this issue, which it will take to the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys General," a spokesman for the minister told GameSpot AU.
Attorney General Delia Lawrie
"The Northern Territory Government welcomes the discussion regarding an R18+ classification for games at the upcoming Standing Committee for Attorneys-General," a spokesperson for the minister told GameSpot AU.
Attorney-General John Rau
"I've got an open mind about the whole thing, but I'd need to see the whole package. There are two areas I am concerned about. The first is games that have been refused classification already and what will happen to them if an R18+ classification is introduced. The second issue is the MA15+ category as it stands now. I understand it has been stretched to breaking point to accommodate games that would otherwise have been rated R18+, so I would need to see how this classification is re-evaluated going forward. How MA15+ games would be rated would need to be changed if R18+ were to be introduced. These are the factors that will influence and affect my decision on Friday. If we are to get an R18+ for games I'll need to be satisfied that these concerns are answered," Rau told GameSpot AU.
Attorney-General Simon Corbell
"The ACT Government has consistently supported the introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games. This classification would ensure that games with adult content are sold only to adults, and that the purchasers are fully aware of the content and impact of the games. I am of the view that this provides more, rather than less, protection to children and vulnerable adults than the present scheme under which this material may be purchased from overseas and without any guidance as to its content," Corbell told GameSpot AU.
"The ACT Government believes that the best way to inform adults and protect children and young people from harmful material is to allow distribution of that material to be regulated through classification. An R18+ classification category will not introduce prohibited and offensive games to Australia. It will provide governments with a greater ability to control the distribution of these games and would provide adult purchasers with greater information to enable them to determine whether this is something they truly want to view or use."
Attorney-General Robert Clark
"SCAG undertook to do further work on this issue, which will be presented on Friday. It would therefore be inappropriate to form an opinion on the issue prior to receiving that information," a spokesperson of the minister told GameSpot AU.
Attorney-General Cameron Dick
"The proposal put forward by the Federal Government, as reported in the media, appears to have some merit. It recognises the reality of the presence of these games in the marketplace and provides an appropriate regulatory regime to ensure the safety of children. I look forward to hearing the full details of the Federal Government's proposal at SCAG. Ultimately, any decision on the proposal from the Queensland Government will require the endorsement of State Cabinet," Dick told GameSpot AU.
For more on the issue, visit GameSpot AU's previous coverage. GameSpot AU will be reporting on the SCAG decision on Friday.