Minister keen to make progress on R18+

Brendan O'Connor says he wants issue "progressed", but warns against speculation of outcomes of next censorship ministers' meeting; industry observers urge gamers to be optimistic.

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With the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting just around the corner, the eye of every Aussie gamer will be firmly fixed on Canberra on December 10 with the expectation that a decision surrounding the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games will finally be reached.

However, Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor (the Minister who has taken control of the R18+ issue in parliament) is warning gamers not to try to predict the outcome of the next SCAG meeting.

"The issue is on the agenda for the SCAG meeting on 10 December, and at that time, classification ministers will discuss the matter," O'Connor told GameSpot AU. "There’s little use to speculating about what will come out of that discussion, but I understand that the gaming community is keen to see this issue progressed, and I share that goal."

Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor says he wants to make progress on R18+ for games.
Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor says he wants to make progress on R18+ for games.

Just last month, O'Connor told GameSpot AU that despite an overwhelmingly positive response supporting an adult classification for video games in last year's public consultation, he and other classification ministers believe that more community views--what he terms "the silent majority"--are needed before a decision on R18+ for games can be made.

Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA), is of a different opinion to O'Connor. He believes any further consultation would just confirm what the government already knows--that Australia is ready for an R18+ classification for video games.

"If there was an overwhelming objection to the issue, then I'm sure [the Australian public] would have been just as active in voicing their opposition as the supporters were," Curry told GameSpot AU. "[But] it simply didn't happen. I'm not sure that it's right to have a consultation, then dismiss the findings claiming that those who aren't gamers didn't give an opinion. Should we assume that for any overwhelming response to a government inquiry in the future that it's dismissed as only interested people contributed?"

"Let's not forget, according to Bond University's research, that 68 percent of all Australians play video games. I guess the government is looking for the remaining 32 percent, which is a dramatic minority of the population."

Curry urges gamers to remain optimistic about the upcoming SCAG meeting, despite his thoughts on the lack of commitment seen in the past.

"We've seen some steps forward with the public consultation, regardless of our thoughts on the outcome. There are indications that, at a federal level at least, the issue is being treated with some degree of seriousness. However, I would hope that we see some leadership on the issue. I hope SCAG either makes a decision, or commits to closure on the issue, because until now we've had procrastination, diffusion, and, largely, the issue has been ignored."

Former deputy director of the Classification Board of Australia, Paul Hunt, is of the view that gamers shouldn't hold their breath for any major decisions. He believes that classification ministers are unlikely to make any decision on the matter before they get what they want--that is, the views of "the silent majority."

"I am not aware that any experts or community groups have taken part in any further sharing of views," Hunt told GameSpot AU. "It doesn’t mean they haven't--just that the information hasn't been shared. Perhaps this has been done, and ministers will announce their latest findings. However, I would remain fairly neutral on expectations regarding a decision at the December meeting. SCAG is a ministerial council that deals with lots of important legal and other issues that have significant impact on the lives of all Australians. Classification is a very small part of it, and R18+ for games is a very small part of classification."

According to Hunt, entertainment content such as video games should not be a matter for a ministerial council such as SCAG. He believes this is one of the reasons why some ministers may be unwilling to make a decision that will be unpopular with people in the electorate, hence all the stalling on the issue.

"I don’t have a problem with the government making sure they have information and views from all sectors. That makes good sense. There is no need to isolate the non-gaming public. If you do that, you will be talking with less than one-third of Australians. However, the government has already asked everyone for their opinion. I don't agree with worrying about "the silent majority". It's garbage. The reason they are silent is because they don't give a s***! It's the old cop-out from the bleeding hearts: 'Everyone is too uneducated or frightened to realise or say how bad an R18+will be, so just listen to us and don't allow it. We speak for the silent majority.' What a load of crap."

Like Curry, Hunt believes that any further public consultation will not change the overwhelming support in Australia for an R18+ for games. He says the only purpose of further consultation is to delay a decision.

"Obviously, the discussion paper and consultation gave an overwhelming answer--and not just in terms of numbers. In my opinion, the strength of the [published] arguments supporting an R18+ are far greater than the strength of the arguments against. A cynical view may be that one or more ministers didn't get the answer they wanted out of the consultation, so they’ll keep asking the questions until they get the 'right' answer. I can't understand why they are delaying. If a minister doesn't want an R18+, just put the issue to a vote and vote against it. Any other response is pretty soft."

Classification ministers will meet on December 10 in Canberra to discuss R18+ for games. For more on the issue, or to submit a question to Brendan O'Connor, visit GameSpot AU's previous coverage.

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