Tony Abbott: Classification System Is “Broken”

Tony Abbott, leader of the Federal Opposition Liberal Party, has weighed into the debate on media classification, claiming that the current classification scheme is “broken”.

On Monday night, Prime Minster Kevin Rudd and Liberal leader Tony Abbott spoke at the Make It Count debate, an event organised by the Australian Christian Lobby. During the discussion, Abbott expressed dismay over a dysfunctional classification scheme.

“I think that the best way to handle this is to accept that our current classification system is broken.” said Abbott, after a question about the premature sexualisation of children in today’s media.

“I think we have to be careful about what some might describe as the heavy hand of censorship. I’m not normally one for wanting to see government enquiries, but I think in this case we probably do need a further review, building on the work of the senate enquiry to which you refer, and I think any such review should be tasked with trying to come up with a new way of ensuring that proper community standards are applied to the media, all media, including new media.”

Abbott was speaking broadly about classification across all media, not just limited to computer and video games.

However, the clearest possible way our ratings system is broken is with the lack of an R18+ rating for games. When stacked up against other forms of media, the ratings system for video games is incomplete.

So what are the chances Tony Abbott supports an R18+ rating?

It’s a major step to have a politician of Abbott’s stature admit that our ratings system is dysfunctional in an election year (and at a Christian debate), considering you’d be hard-pressed to get a straight answer out of an Attorney-General in any given year. Considering the government’s discussion paper earlier this year yielded over 59,000 submissions, of which 98.2% were in favour of the proposed rating, is it crazy to consider Mr. Abbott might be thinking of R18+ as an election issue?

His belief that the issue needs further review, however, is in line with the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General’s decision to request “further analysis of community and expert views”.

As a result of this view, Roland Kulen, who heads up the Everyone Plays initiative, believes we won’t see an R18+ rating by the end of this year:

“Mr. Abbott is right about the system being dysfunctional, but we don’t need further review. The SCAG is saying we need more consultation but we don’t, we’ve already had it. It’s time wasting, because it’s an election year.”

A combination of efforts from gaming site PALGN and retailer GAME, Everyone Plays has accumulated over 89,000 signatures on a petition for the proposed rating, set to be tabled in the Senate in early July.

Prime Minister Rudd was asked the same question, and deferred it until a later time:

“As a father with three kids, I share the concern. I think every Australian child deserves a childhood..but you know, parents have other responsibilities here too. We’ll try and get you a defined response to those recommendations, but I’d much rather do that in a clear & upfront way rather than try and invent something on the spot, absent the recommendations in front of me.”

Other topics touched on ranged from whether the Lord’s Prayer will still be observed in Parliament, to larger issues such as same-sex marriages, refugees, and climate change. Both candidates took the opportunity to claim that while they don’t approve of discrimination against any people, in the eyes of their parties’, marriage is between a man and a woman.

The Make It Count debate was organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, sponsored by Gloria Jeans Coffees, and was made available via webcast to Christian churches and church groups nationally.

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