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.


Comments

    God I really like that guy.

      Yup.

      He's one of only about 2-3 politicians I have any time for

      +1,000,000!

      He actually understands the problem and has a real desire to improve things. What more can we ask of our politicians?

      Never thought I'd say it about a politician, but I agree 100%. Finally someone who understands!

    This man is amazing!

    O'Conner is the coolest guy in the Australian government in my book >.>

    O'Connor has his head screwed on straight and is taking a very logical viewpoint in all this. I hope the other AG's are listening to him instead of the "protect the children" lobby groups (eg. Australian Christian Lobby).

    But where would things go if the meeting fails? Is there some higher level of Government that can be appealed to that can solve this matter quickly?

      The Christian lobby group and others who oppose the change don't actually understand the situation. They don't realise that most 10-year olds are actually playing these R18 games but under a classification of MA15+. I'm glad there is someone who actually knows the statistics rather then pulling crap out of their us like most people.
      *cough cough 7PM Project cough*

      You would think that the Prime Minister would have some sort of power over the matter if the AG's can't get their act together. She's meant to be the almighty ruler of Australia isn't she?

    Yep, it's good to see Brendan O'Connor is completely on the ball, and I can actually sense the honesty of his frustration at how long it has taken the SCAG to act on this matter! Good on ya mate, I hope he can really make the difference here.

    Hmm, an interesting interview.

    He never does give specific examples of legal avenues the Commonwealth could pursue to amend the classification ratings in the absence of consensus among the SCAG.

    My understanding is pursuant to the Classification Act 1995 (http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2011C00026) any changes to the classification regime requires unanimity in SCAG. " If the Minister and each participating Minister agree to an amendment of the guidelines, the guidelines are taken to be amended accordingly."

    Then again, the Commonwealth could just amend the original law (it is a Federal law) to remove the requirement for State Ministers to approve. It would require a bit of wrangling, but after July the ALP bloc + Greens in the Senate could get it through.

    Amending the law seems like the only option available, unless there's something in the Act itself that allows for changes without unanimity.

    /law

      Yeah, that's the only way I can see us getting the R rating without unanimous support. It's a stupid law anyway and it needs to change to stop this sort of stalling from happening.

    It's just so refreshing to hear someone in a position of actual power finally making sense on this issue.

    "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."

    I agree with this, but I worry that there's no mention of actually introducing higher-level guidelines as well. This isn't just about getting the inappropriatly classified MA15+ stuff moved under a new banner, it's also about expanding the top level guideline to allow more games aimed at an adult audience. It's completely meaningless if it's just splitting MA15 in half. And I'm worried that that will be the 'compromise' that we'll end up with if the Attourneys General come to a 'consensus'.

      I agree, it doesn't sound at all like this is what us gamers want, turning MA15+ into R18+ and not allowing room for previously RC games sounds like an even greater waste of time and resources of the government, but it wouldn't surprise me the slightest if that happened.

      Actually, he did say "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 he's talking about fixing the issue at BOTH ends.

      This man is too sensible to survive long in politics.

        Exactly, He's also said before in previous articles that they are taking a COMMON SENSE approach to the issue.

        Having an adult rating for games but STILL banning games because they are unsuitable for minors is NOT a common sense approach to the issue.

        Don't worry guys. He's fighting for the exact same sort of R rating that we're all fighting for.

    Still doesn't change that this issue has taken FAR too long to get addressed. I have to admit a big part of this was due to the Michael Atkinson period, but even last year when they were saying that the December meeting was supposed to be the end of it all we were left hanging.

    Outside of politics, I cannot think of a single organisation that takes nearly 10 years to amend policy guidelines that would still be considered competent

    Maybe he should attack the problem from a different angle, instead of pushing for the unanimous decision, change the law so a modification to classification rules only requires a 2/3 majority instead.

    That way one stubborn holdoout can't stand in the way of the overwhelming tide of public opinion and it'll be more future proof so when the next entertainment that needs classification comes along, they can ammend the rules easier rather than having to go through all this again

    This is the best news there has been on this front for ages. It's about damn time too. I have no problem showing I.D when buying an R18+ game, I'm an adult and If I want that content I should be able to get it.

    Bravo Brendon O'Connor. Bravo Sir.

    Wish I shared his confidence, but wish the dude luck on the matter and hope folk will listen to reason.

    by the time they make a decision, ill be 18!!

      lol, lucky you. you get to play all the adult rated games before your an adult coz of our broken ratings system and then once you've turned 18 you don't have to settle for stripped down inferior knock offs like L4D2 anymore

    '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.'

    Translation: I really can't do diddly squat.......

      exactly what I was thinking

    His answer to the alternatives question reminds me of this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoy4_h7Pb3M

    Other than that... this guy is saying all the right things.

    Someone that gets it! Still, not gonna get too optimistic...

    Rock on! I only wish he could bad mouth Stephen Conroy directly. But I know it is better for him if he didn't.

    Brendan O'Connor says this but how long will it be for the ACL to stick their noses in and we are back to sqaure one.

    I reckon it will go to the senate and will go over the heads of the AG's who clearly wont make a decision in a hurry.

    What a top bloke. Took the time to educate himself on the issue and took a stand that reflects the community expectations he is there to represent.

    I am making a religion where Brendan O’Connor is god, Who wants to join? lol

    Well he says he will do it but can we trust him to follow through?
    Gillard also said she wouldn't bring in carbon tax and now she is going to anyways..

      I think he will. He sounds too passionate about the issue to just let it slide.

      He has been trying to get an R18+ rating for over a decade now.

      That's all I need to say.

    DENY adults access to adult games BECAUSE adult games are unsuitable for children?

    DOES NOT COMPUTE

    Grown adults incapable of elementary logic have no business governing other people. Any MPs or Attorneys General who voted against the R18+ classification at any point are not fit to serve the Australian public.

    I think I have the first Aussie Politician I like.

    Go get 'em man, MAKE US PROUD.

    Good luck.

    Brendan O'Connor for prime minister.

    All this love for B O'C and his gaming conversion. Don't forget he is one of the most fervent supporters of Conroy's internet filter and a poster boy for assaults on peer to peer and Wikileaks. God? Pleeeeeeease...

      It's also known that Conroy himself is also a supporter of an R18 ratings system.

      It seems to me that if we want the government to step in to finally allow adult games to be rated as such, we must also accept them trying to rate the internet aswell. Are we really prepared to move the beaurocratic bullshit from games to our net?

      I for one, would like to know what the greens think of all of this. I mean, they are the ones technically running the country atm.....

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