Aussie minor parties show support for R18+

The Greens, the Australian Sex Party, and the Pirate Party profess support for R18+; Coalition says it will watch Michael Atkinson's movements "with interest."

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Two months after the Australian government released a national discussion paper calling for public opinion on R18+ for games, the issue is finally making waves in the political sphere. After hearing the federal stance and the views of all state and territory Attorneys-General, other political parties, including the Greens and the Opposition, have put in their two cents.

The Federal Coalition has stepped forward, with Steven Ciobo, the Opposition spokesman for Small Business, Independent Contractors, Tourism and the Arts, telling GameSpot AU that his party will be watching the upcoming state election in South Australia "with interest."

Steven Ciobo.
Steven Ciobo.

“The Office of the Minister for Home Affairs has committed to providing the Opposition with a further briefing on the R18+ public consultation that has followed the discussion paper,” Ciobo said.

“The Coalition will consider the feedback from the public consultation. A briefing by departmental officials from the Attorney-General's department have confirmed the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games requires unanimous agreement from the Commonwealth and all state and territory Censorship ministers. The South Australian Attorney-General, The Hon Michael Atkinson MP, has been a particularly vocal critic of the proposal for an R18+ classification for games. We will therefore be watching the upcoming state election in South Australia with interest.”

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the Greens plan to stay ahead of the R18+ debate in 2010.

“The Greens don’t have a formal position on the absence of an R18+ classification for video games just yet,” Ludlam said. “We plan on being informed by the material that comes through in the public consultation, and we’ll be forming an official stance soon. Personally, I’ve formed a view, and I suspect my colleagues have as well. We want to stay ahead of the debate this year, and we’re already talking to the industry and to people with a range of different views.”

Scott Ludlam.
Scott Ludlam.

“My personal stance is that [the absence of an R18+ for games] is a real anomaly. I think it’s making the situation worse. We know that in some instances material that should otherwise be classified R18+ is instead diverted into the MA15+ category. That’s a sign that there needs to be some kind of reform. I think we do need R18+ for games, but only on the condition that there is a good look at the way that we classify video games in this country to make sure that some of the very real concerns that have been raised by parents and child protection groups are acknowledged as well.”

Ludlam believes the R18+ discussion paper provides a reasonable summary of the arguments for and against the classification. But he says merely introducing R18+ will not solve problem of access as it applies to children and potentially harmful material.

Ludlam believes the public consultation will result in a solid base of reasonably well-researched support for a change to the system. His views on South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson are not so positive.

“I think the position he took to block the rest of the country from moving forward was really unhelpful, and I don’t think he necessarily provided the arguments to back up the position he took.”

These thoughts are echoed by marginal parties Australian Sex Party (ASP) and the Pirate Party Australia, who both support the introduction of R18+ for games. ASP was launched in November 2008 and became a full registered party in 2009 after the Australian Electoral Commission dealt with a number of complaints about the party’s name. The party now has around 3,000 members and recently participated in by-elections in the Bradfield and Higgins electorates where the party received the fourth highest primary vote and after preference distributions came third overall.

ASP founder Fiona Patten says, quite frankly, that Australia’s classification system is “f***ed.”

“Having worked as a lobbyist and an activist for the adult industry for nearly 20 years, I became demoralised by the fact that in 2008 we had more censorship than when I started,” Patten said. “There is simply no consistency across mediums in our classification system--what is legal in a book is not legal in a magazine, what is legal in a magazine is not legal in a film, and what is legal in a film is not legal in a video game. Personally, I think we should throw out the existing system and start again.”

Fiona Patten.
Fiona Patten.

Patten has been campaigning for an R18+, as well as an X rating for video games in Australia. She believes the argument against allowing these classifications into Australia is unsupported.

“Why shouldn’t adults play adult computer games? It is archaic that one state Attorney-General can stop the introduction of a national classification despite overwhelming community support. I think R18+ for games will actually assist parents in making decisions about what their children play. Of course, the main issue by far is that adults should have the right to choose what they view, read, or play, and the industry should not have to edit their creative product for the Australian market," she said.

Patten says she will support Gamers4Croydon in its bid to unseat Michael Atkinson in the upcoming South Australian state election.

“We will support them in any way we can, and I hope they might do the same for us. The seat of Croydon is a very, very safe Labor seat, so the chances of anyone knocking off Michael Atkinson is slim, but they will get the message out, and they may be able to do some interesting preference deals.”

In a similar vein, the Pirate Party Australia also supports R18+ for games, releasing a press statement earlier this month expressing “disgust” at Michael Atkinson’s stance on censorship. Matt Redmond, a Pirate Party spokesperson, said: “Every citizen in a democracy has the right to question the government, and in doing so has the right to protect himself from censure.”

For more on classification, check out GameSpot AU's Aussie Games Classification FAQ feature.

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