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Brendan O'Connor: R18+, Classification And Years Of Inaction

Earlier we posted a story discussing Brendan O’Connor and his stance on the R18+ issue, we’ve just received an entire transcript of the source interview by the ABC, where he states, among other things, that he “seeking advice” on “other avenues”, in case the upcoming SCAG meeting in July doesn’t go as planned.

In an in-depth interview, O’Connor goes into detail on his views on R18+, the current state of classification in this country, and the level of inaction surrounding this issue.

“It’s been on the Attorneys General agenda now since 2002,” stated O’Connor. “We’re coming up to ten years of inaction. It’s about time now thegovernments realise that we cannot afford to leave the classification level as it is.

“I believe we’re becoming the laughing stock of the developed world, where we’re the only country that doesn’t have R18 classification level for video games. We’re the only country that allows tens and tens of games to be used by minors that are only used by adults. I think it’s now time for the Attorneys General of each jurisdiction to come together, reach an agreement in July, so we can move forward with a reformed and improved classification system.”

Brendan O’Connor has been a strong advocate since late 2010 and, in discussions with Kotaku, has advocated an R18+ rating and a more industry focused means of classification.

He also claimed that if July’s meeting does not end favourably, the federal government could go in another direction to make sure Australia gets the adult rating it deserves.

“I’ll be seeking advice about how we move forward on this issue because we cannot afford to leave it like it is,” claimed O’Connor. “It’s not fair on adults in this country, the tens and tens of thousands who play video games. It’s not fair for parents who are concerned about what their children access.

“For those reasons and other reasons, we need to change this and the Commonwealth will be considering other options if we don’t resolve this matter in July.”

If you’re interested you can read the entire transcript of the interview below.

JOURNALIST: Alright, Brendan. Well we’ll be talking about the R18 classifications. Where do things stand at the moment in terms of classifications and getting the backing of the States to put something in place?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: Well, last weekend the governments met to discuss this issue and we’re still considering what we do. The Federal Government, however, is very clear what it believes must be done. We need a R18 classification for video games so we can be similar to the United Kingdom, all of Europe and New Zealand, the United States and other countries. We are falling behind. We have a classification system that’s outdated and that causes a number of problems, including not protecting our young people because many of the games end up being played by our 15 year olds here that are played by adults overseas.

JOURNALIST: What message do you have for the States and Territories ahead of your meeting in July?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I just ask the Attorneys General of those jurisdictions to properly consider what’s being put to them by the Commonwealth. That we need a more effective classification system. There is as a result of converging technologies, we have a situation where film and entertainment are merging but we have totally different classification arrangements. That’s a problem.

The other problem I see is that we have many, many games that are only used by adults overseas that are used by 15 year olds in this country. So I think adults deserve to have access to certain games that they don’t currently have access to and we have 15 year olds who shouldn’t be accessing games lawfully and are accessing them here. So we have a real problem with that and we need to fix it fast.

JOURNALIST: I know with seeing movies, it’s often easy for people under 18 to get into R movies or get them on video. Why do you expect the situation would be different with video games?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: Well look, there’s always that issue about supervision and about what access may arise regardless of the laws that are in place. But I think it’s really important to have proper laws in place. Just because sometimes people speed on the roads, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the right speed for each particular road. The same applies here.

Whilst there might be people who seek to breach these laws, we need to have those laws in place because it does deter people, and secondly, it does provide better guidance to parents. If a parent sees an R18 video game on the shelf they know that it’s more likely to cause offence to their child than would be the case if they’re all MA. So I think it sends both a signal but it also does deter people from accessing types of entertainment that is not suitable for them.

JOURNALIST: Okay and so you’re urging States to get on board with the introduction of this R18+?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I think by July, at the next meeting of Attorneys General, we really need to decide this matter once and for all and I foreshadow that if there is not a consensus around this issue, the Commonwealth will certainly be considering other options. Because we cannot continue to have an outdated classification system that’s actually, in my view, causing harm to young people.

JOURNALIST: Other options being?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I’ll be seeking advice about how we move forward on this issue because we cannot afford to leave it like it is. It’s not fair on adults in this country, the tens and tens of thousands who play video games. It’s not fair for parents who are concerned about what their children access.

For those reasons and other reasons, we need to change this and the Commonwealth will be considering other options if we don’t resolve this matter in July.

JOURNALIST: But what avenues are there for the Commonwealth if this meeting doesn’t give you the result that you’re after?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I’m not going to let this matter end because it’s too important and that’s why I’ll be considering what options there are. As I’ve already made clear, the convention is that you look to have consensus around these matters but I certainly believe this is too important to allow one or two jurisdictions to stop the majority of jurisdictions in this country moving on an important reform and that’s why we’re looking at this.

But can I say my preference, my very strong preference, is to have consent around the table in July to make sure we have a better classification system that will protect our young children and allow adults in this country the same access to material that adults around the world access.

JOURNALIST: So you can’t give us any concrete examples of what avenues will be?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I’m seeking advice, you can imagine. I’m not going to outline all of those things to you now. But I can tell you that we’re committed to making sure we change this area, this area of classification for the better.

JOURNALIST: Okay. This issue’s been going on for a long, long time. How important is it to get the final decision before July?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: It’s important in that it’s been on the Attorneys General agenda now since 2002. We’re coming up to ten years of inaction. It’s about time now the governments realise that we cannot afford to leave the classification level as it is.

I believe we’re becoming the laughing stock of the developed world, where we’re the only country that doesn’t have R18 classification level for video games. We’re the only country that allows tens and tens of games to be used by minors that are only used by adults. I think it’s now time for the Attorneys General of each jurisdiction to come together, reach an agreement in July, so we can move forward with a reformed and improved classification system.

JOURNALIST: Cool. What are some of the draft guidelines tabled at Friday’s meetings, and are those guidelines flexible?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I’m always open to discussion. In fact, I already foreshadowed with a number of Attorneys General that I would look at the way in which we’d perhaps amend parts of the guidelines. But I don’t want to be sitting down, talking about amendments, without really moving forward. I have these discussions subject to a genuineness on behalf of all jurisdictions to want to resolve and ultimately consent to a new classification system.

JOURNALIST: And what are some of the draft guidelines that will be tabled?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: Well, the guidelines go to each of the classification levels that are currently applying to the video games. So for example, in order to introduce an R18 classification level, we’d look to modify the MA level. I’ve just mentioned I’m concerned about the amount of games that get into the MA level. I’d like to seek to amend those guidelines in order to move some of those games, a significant number of those games, into the R18 classification level. That would allow those games to be played by adults, which I think is proper, and it would take them out of the hands of children, which is also proper.

JOURNALIST: What’s your feeling on the likely outcome of the meeting in July?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: I’m confident that people will realise this is an important issue, and I believe Attorneys have come to this issue with an open mind. Therefore I go into the meeting in July with a view that people want to see an improvement to our classification system. I hope that we can get to resolve this issue, because it’s too important to leave it unattended.

JOURNALIST: How confident are you that the states and territories will get on board?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR: As I say, I’m going into the meeting with an optimistic air. I believe that there are people with goodwill in the room and I believe everyone, even with divergent views, believes we must improve the classification system.