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South Australian AG intent on scrapping MA15+

John Rau confirms he asked SCAG to remove MA15+; believes developers need to rethink who they are marketing to.


When current South Australian Attorney-General John Rau took over from his predecessor--known anti-R18+ campaigner Michael Atkinson--in March this year, Aussie gamers breathed a sigh of relief. Although Rau was quick to deny a pro-R18+ stance, the minister remained neutral on the subject, giving gamers hope that Rau would eventually state a positive viewpoint. Rau kept his neutrality right up until last Friday's Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting, when he told GameSpot AU that he was keeping an open mind. The minister said he was concerned about two areas to do with the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia: what will happen to games that have been refused classification if R18+ is introduced, and the reevaluation of the MA15+ category.

Although the nation's attorneys-general decided to draft preliminary guidelines for the introduction of R18+ for games during last Friday's SCAG meeting, it appears Rau is still concerned about the future of the MA15+ category should R18+ be introduced. Speaking to the Adelaide Advertiser yesterday, Rau said he wants to scrap the MA15+ category altogether, saying its scrapping will better inform parents and provide a clear delineation between video games made for kids and those made for adults.

South Australian Attorney-General John Rau.
South Australian Attorney-General John Rau.

Now, speaking to GameSpot AU, Rau says he raised the proposal of scrapping MA15+ at the SCAG meeting last Friday and was greeted with a generally positive reaction.

"They [the other attorneys-general] were certainly interested in considering it," Rau said. "But look, it has to be seen in context. The agreement at SCAG last week was that the categories [R18+, MA15+, and RC] are going to be reviewed anyway because the descriptions applicable to film in the National Classification Scheme aren't applicable to gaming.

"My reason for wanting to get rid of MA15+ if an R18+ is passed is that it will provide a crisper delineation between adults-only games and games that are for children. I want to force game manufactures to make a decision about who they are marketing to: if it is adults, their games will be rated R18+; if it is children, then they will have to ensure that their games are sufficiently pruned back to make it into the M category. The whole point of this is to force manufacturers to make a choice in their own heads: are they marketing to kids or to adults?"

According to Rau, the current MA15+ category is a bridging category--a grey area that would be exploited if an R18+ classification were to be introduced. Rau says whether a game would be classified MA15+ or R18+ would be a matter of interpretation, which is why MA15+ needs to be scrapped.

"If we introduce R18+ for games, it should be very clear and very different from the other categories. There are a lot of games now in the MA15+ category that should be rated R18+; I do not want to see these games continue to be rated MA15+. Parents should have a clear guide about what games are suitable for kids and what games are not. Besides, if the latest surveys about the average gamer being a 32-year-old single male who sits at home and plays games all day are correct, then what I am proposing is not going to have much impact at all," he said.

When asked about the subtle differences in games as well as the significant changes in mental capacity from 15- to 18-year-olds, Rau insisted that his proposal is still just an idea at this stage and that he will need to see the proposed guidelines on R18+ before he can make a decision on whether to pursue his line of reasoning.

"If the guidelines prove to have a clear gap between what kids will be able to access and what will be available in the R18+ category, then my purpose will have been achieved. If there continues to be a continuum between the classifications then my problem will still be there and I'll continue to push for it to be addressed. Again, if MA15+ comes out of the mix altogether, I think parents will have a clearer idea what games are for children and what games are for adults. That is my ultimate goal."

Asked whether he would be appeased by Federal Minister of Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor's proposal to reclassify MA15+ games into R18+ if the latter is introduced, Rau seemed optimistic.

"Look, I know we're not creating a watertight situation here; we never will. But I think it is our job to influence what is going on at the retail level and support responsible parents in their decision-making. Brendan O'Connor wants to reclassify MA15+ games for exactly the same reason that I want to abolish the MA15+ category altogether: namely that MA15+ is a dangerous classification. I'm willing to consider what is being put on the table of course, but my bottom line is that I don't want there to be a seamless continuum from G to R18+. I'd like to see a big gap between the M classification and the R18+ classification should it be introduced."

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