Full credit to Michael Atkinson. He not only reads Kotaku and writes to us, but he also reads all your comments as well. As we just revealed, the South Australian Attorney-General and spokesperson for the anti-R18+ brigade has written a second letter to Kotaku. In it, he addresses a host of comments left by Kotaku readers the last time he wrote to us. You’ll find his lengthy response – in full – beyond the jump.
Editor’s Note: Prior to receiving this letter we had deleted a number of reader comments we felt went too far. The comments the minister makes reference to below may no longer be published on the site. And if you wish to respond to Mr Atkinson’s remarks, please do keep it civil.
I shall try to deal with Thursday’s posts in the order they appeared on the site.
EzyLee opened the batting for those advocating an R18+ classification for games by deriding my appearance. JW says I am “a dirty smiling twit.” Juggernautz says “You are an ignorant coward.” Ben says I am “a bully protected by the law.” Allure Media and Kotaku moderator David Wildgoose think this is an appropriate tone for the debate and so it continues. At 8.09 p.m. Shawn says “What is it with all these threats to his life. Does he really think ppl (people) give a damn about him.” Dateman at 8.59 p.m. says: “So when are they going to patch GTA (Grand Theft Auto) so Atkinson is a pedestrian? (i.e. run him down with a vehicle and kill him)”. Are none of the advocates of an R18+ classification for games – including the two Attorneys-General – worried about death threats and the kind of anonymous cyber-rage in which their comrades are engaging? If you are, why don’t you say so? Why is the site’s moderator letting this kind of thing through?
EzyLee then claimed I was up at 2.30 a.m. to hear the threatening message being slipped under my door because I was awake and “beating up hookers.” If you wish to back your claim about me EzyLee, please supply me with a real name and address for service so we can test the veracity of your untruthful, malicious and defamatory imputation in the best method known to our society. If some thoughtful R18+ advocates worry that Members of Parliament don’t take them seriously, or won’t engage them on their preferred territory, yesterday’s and today’s anonymous cyber-rage against me will confirm their worry.
Mr Waffle derided my suggestion that advocates of the R18+ classification test their claimed 90 p.c. plus approval among the public by a vote of 24,000 people living in the inner-north-western suburbs of Adelaide (Croydon State District). He asserted that my challenge was “Meet me behind the shed at 5 schoolboy brawling.” No, Mr Waffle, I am the Attorney-General because I am an elected Member of Parliament and have the confidence of a majority of the Members of the Lower House of the South Australian Parliament. My opposition to R18+ games is seven years old and widely known. Duskbringer claimed “His electorate, who I am sure tip the scales toward the greyer end of the community” was also wrong. My electorate is inner-city, full of apartments and townhouses being built on former industrial sites, occupied by young “wired” professionals and recently arrived refugees from Sudan, West Africa, Bosnia, Iraq, Eastern Turkistan and Afghanistan and dotted with cafes and ethnic-specific groceries. Mr Waffle and Duskbringer might have had a point if my electorate were rural, or in an outer-suburban Hillsong belt, or in a genteel, leafy retirement neighbourhood, but they didn’t do any checking and got it completely wrong. Croydon presents no barriers to their campaigning.
I am trying to explain to bloggers like Mr Waffle how the decision-making system works by laying out the logical method of removing my opposition to the R18+ classification: one way to remove me is to defeat me at the next election, as so many R18+ gamers have advocated (before retreating from that position yesterday); another is to make sure that after the next general election I do not have the support of a majority of Lower House M.Ps to continue as Attorney-General. That is how a parliamentary, rule-of-law democracy works. It does not work by means of vile abuse and death threats.
RG at 4.01 p.m. makes the same mistake as Mr Waffle: “So basically, Michael Atkinson, who holds a single electorate, has the right to hold every other electorate in the country to ransom.” (It would be a scandal, RG, if I held three or four electorates) My holding Croydon is a necessary condition of my vetoing an R18+ classification for games – it is not a sufficient condition. There are two further conditions: one is that I maintain the confidence of a majority of members of the Lower House of the South Australian Parliament and the other is that the Commonwealth, States and Territories of Australia maintain the legislation for a co-operative censorship arrangement that requires all parties to agree before the rules are changed. Not one of Australia’s Attorneys-General – not even Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls – has ever suggested that the latter be changed.
Clocks demands: “Just release the discussion paper, damnit!” Clocks, I am happy for the discussion paper to be released. I made the changes I wanted after the Brisbane Standing Committee of Attorneys-General last year. The change most important to me in this paper was to include illustrations of what games above MA15+ were like. This debate shouldn’t be a clinical written analysis of arguments only. Readers should be able to see what we are arguing for or against. Concerns were raised about my changes from other Attorney-General’s departments, including whether it was appropriate to include depictions of these ultra-violent, extreme games. I do not understand why anyone would want to exclude this material from the discussion paper. The same people who want to exclude it from the discussion paper want Australians to have games rated above MA15+ in their homes. The Australian public at large should have – via the discussion paper – descriptions of the games above MA15+. I haven’t stopped the discussion paper – I want it to show what these games are like, what is really at the centre of this debate. It is my opponents who are engaging in the cover up and trying to delay the discussion’s paper’s going out.
White Pointer makes the same mistake as Clocks when writing: “The fact you haven’t allowed that draft discussion paper through yet…”
Gladice says I should stop “whinging about the amount of threats made against you.” That’s number of threats, Gladice, not amount of threats. If you think you could face such threats with equanimity, Gladice, perhaps you are not married with four children and only a screen door and Gus the dog between you and the people making the threats at 2.30 a.m..
Nick “Enigma” Gibson complains that I haven’t been in touch with him about his seven-minute You Tube rant against me. The answer to that Nick – if that is your name – is that you didn’t provide me with any contact details. I am not a clairvoyant. You Tube stardom has tipped you into solipsism.
For those who complain that I have not responded to their abuse emailed to me (e.g. unfunk at 2.58 p.m.), my practice is to ask email correspondents for a real name and a street address. Most of the emails I get about this topic are crank or hoax emails in the sense that they are not from people willing to reveal a real name or a street address. When I write a reply, I want to write it to a real person at a real address, not a phantom.
Nick – if that is your name – demands to know why I am deciding the question of an R18+ classification for games and not him. That is because I ran for parliament, got elected, worked to be re-elected many times and gained the confidence of a majority of the Members of the Lower House of the South Australian Parliament. The party of which I am a member won a record majority at the last general election. As Attorney-General for the four years leading up to that election, I had been openly opposing an R18+ classification for computer games and giving my reasons. My Party and I recorded our biggest vote ever in March 2006 and were elected to govern for four more years (and I don’t for a moment claim that that was because of my position on the R18+ classification). Hours of television and radio news time, hours of radio talkback and acres of newsprint have been devoted to the topic by media outlets across the country. And I re-iterate, I am not the only Attorney-General opposed to an R18+ classification for games – I’m the one who is happy to be the lightning rod for R18+ gamers. The likelihood is that any successor of mine as Attorney-General for South Australia would also oppose an R18+ classification, whether that person be Labor or Liberal. So, Angus, vote Liberal all you like. As I understand it, the only Liberal Attorney-General among the Censorship Ministers has not stated a position yet and two Labor Attorneys-General are in favour of an R18+ classification. It would be a paradox if Angus’s vote tipped Victorian Attorney-General and R18+ supporter Rob Hulls out of office.
Juggernautz says: “We want you to do your goddamned job and be the people’s voice.” I am doing my job, Juggernautz, and I am the people’s voice on this and some other things. The Bond University poll that purported to show that 88 p.c. of Australians favoured an R18+ classification for games was funded by the Interactive Games Association. The vast majority of Australians have never turned their mind to the question of an R18+ classification for games and many have no understanding or interest in the classification system. Juggernautz, you think that 90 p.c. of Australians support your position on R18+ games because most of the people you mix with are gamers. You should get out more.
boc says my making myself available to debate the classification issue on Kotaku is “assinine (sic) and cowardly.” I presume, boc, you want me banned from the Kotaku site or for me not to debate the question at all. So, the boc position is: “Atkinson is only allowed to debate the question if he agrees with us. If he disagrees with us, he’s asinine and cowardly.” Perhaps you’ve heard of the Soviet Union, boc.
boc, being on a roll, asks: “I would like to know exactly what his electorate has to do with his position as Attorney-General.” Where to start, boc? Australia inherits from Britain the notion that every neighbourhood should be entitled to send a representative to make the laws in Parliament. Governments and law-making are based on majorities in Parliament. Ministers, such as the Attorney-General, can be Ministers only while they are themselves elected Members of Parliament (in my case, M.P. for Croydon) and while they retain the confidence of a majority of the Members of the Lower House of Parliament (which I do and have done for the past seven years). If you want to make the laws, boc, get elected to Parliament and if you want to be Attorney-General, then win the confidence of a majority of members of the parliament of which you are a member. If, as you claim, 90 p.c. of Australians support your position on games and therefore oppose mine, you should – according to your own reasoning – be a shoo-in to win the State District of Croydon at the next election. Some of the more intelligent bloggers on Kotaku understand the task ahead of supporters of an R18+ classification but they cannot bring themselves to admit that they do not have enough support from the Australian public to prevail in elections.
In the real world – as distinct from blogsites for gamers – people disagree about questions of censorship and they resolve this through the process of parliamentary democracy. That is why some Attorneys-General support you and some support me.
boc, and most bloggers on this site, seem to be contemptuous of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law because they are not getting their way. They want instant gratification – or civility, the rule of law, responsible government and parliamentary democracy should be tossed down the lavatory. By contrast, I will cheerfully accept an R18+ classification on the day that, under the agreed lawful process, Censorship Ministers endorse an R18+ classification for games. That is the difference between me and the bloggers on this site. I acknowledge that it may happen after I am gone. Memento, Homo, quia pulvis es, et mi pulvirentam reverteris.
Another difference between me and a few of the bloggers on this site is that the latter think it is o.k. to threaten to kill a person if he disagrees with you about a political issue such as R18+ games. Ben, who first posted at 1.30 p.m., is one of these. At 2.11 p.m. he writes: “It really isn’t surprising that your (sic) getting death threats from people. Did you ever stop to think, hmmnn maybe I’m wrong on this one.” Dale backs Ben at 2.29 p.m.
RG evokes a pleasant memory when he mentions the peasant woman in Monty Python & the Holy Grail. Arthur tells her he’s the King and she replies “Well, I didn’t vote for you.” To which Arthur replies that one doesn’t vote for Kings and goes on to make a claim for sovereignty based on grasping Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake accompanied by orchestra. If RG is an Australian citizen aged 18 or over and enrolled to vote, he gets to vote for his State Parliament and the Federal Parliament and therefore has a say in the identity and policies of two of the Attorneys-General who are Censorship Ministers. That he doesn’t vote in the State District of Croydon is neither here nor there. Does RG want to be granted the vote in all eight States and Territories?
Rory Betteridge fulminates about Jack Thompson (of whom I had never heard until yesterday) and says, addressing me, “Like you, he’s a staunch Catholic.” This would come as a surprise to my mother and father, wife and four children, as it is a surprise to me. As the accused used to say before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee mutatis mutandis “I am not now, and never have been, a Catholic.” Why does Rory think one’s religion needs to be appended to one’s arguments in the public square, like a yellow of Star of David on Jews during the Third Reich , and on what sub-stratum of fact did he assert that I am a Catholic? Do I look like one? Rory could now apologise on the Kotaku blog for his mistake and explain how he came to make the mistake and why he felt compelled to throw a blanket over Jack Thompson and me, but being an R18+ gamer means never having to say you’re sorry.
I’ve devoted many hours this week to trying to explain my position to R18+ gamers. I’ve read every post. I’ve tried to respond to every criticism. Maybe a few bloggers understand but, on the whole, Kotaku seems to be a morass of hatred and abuse comparable to Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer. Parliamentary democracy cannot work without a civilised discourse. The moderator of this site will not keep the discourse civil. Most Members of Parliament who might read the past two days of dialogue would conclude that a civilised dialogue with R18+ gamers is impossible and therefore not worth trying. That is a pity. Perhaps we can try again sometime.