R18+ Classification & Video Games: What You Can Do

r18_left.jpgThe Standing Committee of Attorneys-General recently announced that it would be asking the public for its opinion on an R18+ classification for video games. At the time this news came out, there was no word on how the SCAG would facilitate such a consultation.

That was then. Now, we have the notes from the March 28 meeting that includes all the details.If you’d like to take a peek, they’re freely available on the SCAG website (Word and PDF formats).

Essentially, the SCAG’s plan involves putting together a discussion paper that “canvasses options and seeks submissions” on the R18+ rating. The paper will include “relevant research and literature” as well as any amendments to the various Acts that govern the National Classification System (NCS).

This paper, once approved by the SCAG, will be made available to the public and relevant interest groups, such as the IEAA.

It sounds like a passive, round-about approach, but I believe the committee should be as informed as possible before it makes a decision. These guys deal with a lot of issues, not just classification, so while we might know the whole story, they don’t.

Regardless, if you can’t wait for the discussion paper, there are several avenues you can pursue to get the message across.

Office of Film and Literature Classification e-Enquiry form
A web form-based suggestions page for the OFLC. But it’s not just a suggestions form! According to the page, you can also throw “an enquiry, compliment, complaint or comment”, as long as it involves the Classifications Board. There’s also a link to the SCAG’s classification policy page, but it has no contact details.

Show Rob Hulls, the Attorney-General for Victoria, your support
Simply put, Rob Hulls is a champ. Here’s what he had to say regarding the SCAG’s decision to consult the public, taken from his official statement:

I believe that censorship laws should strike an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and community concerns about depictions that condone or incite violence, as well as the principle that minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them.

As well as:

It seems inconsistent that in Australia, adults are allowed to view ‘adult only’ films which have been classified R18+ by the Classification Board, but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.

Yes, Rob has the right idea. You can email him at rob(DOT)hulls(AT)parliament(DOT)vic(DOT)gov(DOT)au, if you feel you can provide him with information for the discussion paper. Sorry for the extended email address, but I’m sure Rob doesn’t appreciate the Viagra spam.

It should also be noted that Bob Bebus, the Minister for Home Affairs, has taken an interest in the issue. From his statement:

Seeking community views will ensure that my fellow Censorship Ministers and I can be better informed about community views on this issue.

However, he’s sitting on the fence in regards to the rating itself.

“I share concerns about the impact that high level violent content has on minors,” Mr Debus said.

“This is not consultation on a proposal to introduce an R 18+ level for games. It is a public consultation process seeking community views to inform our position.”

“For example, I am very interested to find out whether parents would be empowered by an R 18+ classification, which is legally restricted to adults, and whether they would find the clear labelling of high level games as R 18+ a useful tool to assist them in knowing what games minors should not play.”

Finally, write an old-fashioned letter to the Secretary to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (Censorship)
If you happen to adore the magical invention that is the ballpoint pen, you can scribe your concerns and arguments on papyrus and post it to the SCAG. Here’s the address:

Secretary to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (Censorship)
Australian Government
Attorney-General’s Department
National Circuit

Sadly, there’s no email address you can attack directly, but this is better than nothing.

So don’t feel like you have to sit on your hands, or your feet, if you happen to have the aforementioned appendages swapped. There’s is something you can do. If anyone feels like they can contribute with other ways to inform our government, please post in the comments section. If we get enough, I’d like to put up another post compiling the options.


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