Tony Abbott: Classification System Is “Broken”

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.


  • I think this article is extrapolating a little too far. If Tony Abbott thinks the ratings system is broken, it’s more likely he’s thinking of more censorship, not less.

    • Agree with you here. I think thats exactly what hes saying, to have a politician thats successful with a mind that open… never. They seem to compete on how over conservative they can be as a way of being elected.

    • Absolutely. Abbott is about as right-wing as politicians get in mainstream Australian politics. If he thinks the system is broken it’s because he wants further restrictions, not more freedom for adults to choose for themselves what they can watch / play.

    • Indeed, it seems like he’d be in favour of tightening regulations rather than treating adults as adults, but you’ve assumed that this is one of those times when Abbott actually means what he says – maybe this is one of those non-policy, “non-gospel” things he says to be popular in whatever room he’s currently addressing…

      Either way, I’m not buying what he’s selling.

    • Couldnt agree with you more Ben, Tony Abbott is a religious fenatic with strong moral opinions (gay marriage, violence in media, etc)… so for him to say “its broken” doesnt mean he wants to fix it in ways we all thought he would want to. Honestly i could see him pushing for a tighter ban on video games, even restricting MA sales.

    • Agreed, Abbott is too much of a right wing conservative to agree with an R18+ rating. Even if he does, it’s probably an election stunt that he’ll backflip on if he wins.

    • I think you are right.
      We are talking about a man who was training to be a Catholic deviant, sorry I mean priest.

    • Agreed!

      That said, Tony Abbott talking about classification in no fixed terms to a Christian lobby makes me think that what he really wants is harsher classification, not more accurate classification. This is purely pressumption, but I’m sure Abbott would rather be banning more MA15+ games than letting in more R18+ ones.

    • Indeed. Having had to suffer at the hands of Workchoices once before, I’d rather never experience that again… it was slave labor.

    • Agreed! better to keep the old system and NOT have Abbott as PM *shudders*

      Anyway, even if he did actually say he supported the R18+, which he hasn’t!, you can bet it would turn out to be a “non-core promise” if he got in.

          • I wouldn’t be too worried about the Internet Filter. It’s not like the Labour government has implemented any policies or schemes in the past. Why would they start now?

          • Are you one of those people who post on the Daily telegraph website all the time? You canlike or dislike the guy all you want, but we came through the financial crisis as a world economic powerhouse. Not bad for a tiny little country in the middle of nowhere. That was a result of many factors, but one of the deciding factors was quick and decisive action on the part of the current Federal Government.

            Japan acted more like the Opposition is saying would’ve been the correct choice of action and it hasn’t done them very well. Not at all.

          • Actually I’d say it was because the previous government made our country the richest its been in decades meaning the current government was free to spend its way out of our recession.

          • You mean the previous government that spent 3 terms spending no money to improve Australian quality of life, destroying health, no education spending, work choices, no infrastructure spending. Yep, good times.

      • Yes. I prefer a government that actually rewards ‘individuals’ for working their arses off to get ahead in life rather than punishing them

        Also, haha. laughed at the nutcase who posted the comment “Abbott is to controlled by his religion”

  • mate if he got his way showing a boob would be X18+ and banned in most states

    I don’t believe a word that slimeball says

  • The Liberals have in the past been more pro-censorship with regard to games; you just need to look at their years in parliament to see that. Any change in performed policy during the lead up to an election has to be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Also, “Make It Count” as in “Make sure you keep homosexual Australians from being allowed to express themselves freely, and make sure women do not have the rights to make decisions about their own bodies.”

    Wonder when Krudd and Tony will give their ears to any of the other religions represented by the Australian population.


  • I think he is kind of like our Sarah Palin (not making that comparison in terms of where they each stand in politics). You just look at them both and they both have those crazy eyes like how can they possibly believe the stuff that comes out of their own mouths? Given his somewhat strange views, would his R18+ system be used to further illegalise the games?

    I think we should just resign to the fact that an R18+ probably wont happen for another 2 or so years :(.

    At the end of the day, how hard is it to make it so that a) you show ID or you cannot buy. The whole argument about parents not knowing for real what the game is like is a load of crap. Out of curiosity i made a copy of the Gears 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 covers, made one show the R18+ logo and the other MA 15+ for each. Showing both my parents (younger 15yo brother) and some family members w/ teenage children. Their response was straight up the 18+ would be a non purchase until they physically read into it/saw gameplay whereas the MA 15+ they would probably just get and then after their child has played it if they saw anything bad enough they would take it off them.
    Although yes it is only a sticker, as soon as u see the R18+ sticker anyone would immediately think, hey, why was it rated like this and question buying it for an under 18. Yes friends 18+ may just buy t but that cant be helped.

    Isn’t Gloria jeans owned by the same person (or was it 2 people?) that are the head/leader/owner of Hillsong?

    Having Christian beliefs myself, i see the need for such groups to voice opinions/concerns but i will be very disappointed if such groups hijack this issue (i know there was talk about Atkinson receiving donations from lobby groups but not exactly sure about it all).

    • My understanding is that GJs founders are two of the ‘elders’ of Hillsong.

      Makes me hate working in a Gloria Jeans, to some extent :s. Though at least we don’t support Mercy Ministries anymore!

      • Cynically, I’d suggest that the end of that relationship (GJ’s and MM) was more to do with the bad press MM was getting than anything more high-minded, like respect for human dignity.

    • Yes, Gloria Jeans is owned by prominent Hillsong members and is DEEPLY financially intertwined with the church, which I find to be a terrible conflict of interest, seeing that organised religions benefit from massive tax exemptions and are allowed to be far less transparent with their finances than businesses.

  • I thinks the R18+ classification is necessary both ways. Grand Theft Auto IV should have been an R18+ rated game, but was modified slightly to accomodate the current system.

    This game was designed for an appropriate age audience to fit in with the US system, but when it comes to Australia it has to be modified (but with the nature of the game intact) and then is open to younger audiences.

  • You have the choice of voting for A giant douche or turd sandwich.

    Labor is completely useless, especially Rudd but Abbot is too controlled by his religion.

  • Alternatively he could have been suggesting our retarded classification system be extended to cover everything possible and stifle creativity by requiring everyone pay their pound of flesh to the classification board for every bit of creative media produced, no matter how trivial.

    Abbot and Rudd both made some noise on this, but as they are politicians if you look at what they said, they’ve basically said nothing at all. The classification system being “broken” means exactly what you want it to mean, depending on your agenda.

      • is it just me or do religious fundies seem pick and choose what laws they want to obey.

        also if history is anything to go by religion as a part of government is never a good thing and always leads to bloodshed

  • Our classification system isn’t just broken, its informed by a broken democracy. The idea that its a governmental issue to decide who can say what to whom is a ‘violation’ of freedom of speech (in quotes because we don’t actually have such a right here in Australia).

    The Australian government has been incredibly conservative on this issue for as long as its been around. These exact same arguments were being made in the early 1900s about books, then about film. The Aust Gov’t views Australia (probably as most nations do) as an isolated island of ‘culture’ where nothing bad will happen if we keep out the dirty foreign material. The USA doesn’t think like this primarily because they produce their own culture (for better and for worse) so they don’t worry about what’s coming into the country. Australia has this weird idea that we are pure and noble here, and can only be corrupted by the influences of the media from the outside. Hence Internet filter, banning games, and historically the Chief Censor was a Customs official.

    I sort of wish more gamers would realise that this is what they are fighting for. Connect the dots between R18 classification, Internet Filter, *legislated* (not industry-sponsored like MPAA or ESRB) classification system, and no Freedom of Speech rights, and realise that you are actually involved in a very serious democratic debate.

  • Get your Jesus out of politics.
    Australian Christian Lobby (and the myriad of similar far right Christian groups in Oz); piss off back to your churches where you belong.

    Adam Ruch brings up very good & very true points. The Aus gov has been disturbingly conservative for a very long time. It’s always been run by an overly religious, tunnel visioned group of well to do’s who think Christian Australians (of the preferred Church groups) are the purest of the pure.
    Not necessarily just PMs but the entirety of the upper levels of government. Or huge sums of money come from the aforementioned Church groups (Why do they have this kinda cash?) which does taint decision making in whatever direction the cash-giver wants.

    • I’m a Christian and I agree with you. Christianity is not supposed to be about forcing people to follow God, but to give them a choice.

      Please, everyone vote for the Liberal Democrats; look at their policies and you’ll see that they are all about letting everyone do whatever the hell they want so long as people don’t infringe on each other’s rights. Everyone thinks differently and should be allowed to so long as they aren’t harming anyone. Voting for Greens is forcing environmentalist views on others, voting labor is forcing socialist views on others, voting liberal is forcing Christian values on others. Don’t force your views onto others: vote Liberal Democrats!

      • Yeah Mark,
        lets vote for the pro-gun,
        pro-logging, pro-nuclear power, pro-smoking, pro-gambling, pro-privatization, anti-environmental Liberal Democrats!

        If however you want to see our human rights
        -including freedom of speech- enshrined in the constitution vote for The Greens.

  • I’m not sure that there’s any party in politics that’s serious about winning the support of the ACL; they’re extremist enough that their open support would be damaging even to a right-wing moderate party. But when the ACL organises an event, a lot of less extremist and perfectly reasonable Christians nevertheless pay attention. So it’s important to turn up and look good.

    Abbott’s answer here is a non answer. The Liberals have nothing to gain out of this debate. They don’t have any votes to pick up out of advocating any specific form of classification reform – those votes are already solidly tied up in the Greens and Labor and aren’t going to be shaken loose – and given recent polling data they don’t have anything to gain by suggesting it’s fine how it is, as the minority in favour of the current system again are already fairly well aligned with the Liberals or Family First.

    So yes, it’s crazy to think Abbott would consider R18+ an election issue. It’s not a place he can win; it’s only a place he can lose, so it’s going to be something he completely avoids unless he’s asked a question on it or the Federal Government in some way actively cocks it up and invites criticism.

    • You do realise that the NBN has been in roll out for quite some time now? That there are cables in the ground and operating as we speak?

      You can’t just flick a switch and re-fit the entire country’s digital network. old cables have to be pulled up, new ones laid, then connected, then tested, then integrated intot the national network. The NBN is moving along just fine, in some places ahead of schedule.

      What else has the current government done? Kept us from financial collapse, where financial super powers like Japan and USA fell into ta huge black hole of deep recession, from which they will spend a decade recovering. That not enough? How about record spending on roads, education, health and other infrastructure? I’m no Labor Party member and I don’t particularly like the way Rudd goes about the business of running the country, but the results are there. The current government is doing better than anyone could expect in an extremely trying time.

      • Japan hasn’t been financially strong for many years, the gfc just pushed them further into the red.

        And while Rudd and Swan may have played a part in keeping us out of it, most of the credit goes to our primary industires like mining and agriculture, Rudd just made the inevitable bills a problem for the next election.

        In this situation, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t problem where the two major parties are trying to build a facade held up by spin and insubstantial promises.

        With either of these people leading the country, we’re not going to see anything happening for a long time.

  • I think the golden rule of conversation applies here regarding 2 topics to never talk about at the dinner table: Politics and religion.

    This looks like a dangerous mix of both! LOL

  • The rationale for the Christian debate is that both parties are terrified that the Greens will have the balance of power and neither of the major parties will be able to form a majority government. George Pell’s comments at the start of the night I think stated it clearly that their agenda is “explicitly unchristian” and both of the major parties would be interested in earning preferences from other groups in order for them not to go to other minor parties… namely the Greens.

    As for censorship, I think its all spin as a way in which Tony could appeal to the issues that may earn him these preferences with the gorups that buy into the ACL’s propaganda without actually committing to anything concrete. Or gospel truth in this case. I think Tony was implying stricter censorship controls and mechanisms to further prevent adults accessing adult media and material, wether it be internet censorship, the non adoption of R18au and I couldn’t put it past him introducing a “blackcase” as is required in SA. This is a joke.

    It’s all spin. I hope Brendan O’Connor loses his seat or Gort around Keilor way in Melbourne, which is unlikely, as he is the minister responsible for holding up R18au.

  • It may surprise some of the commenters here to know that the submission to the Discussion Paper on R18 games by Australian Catholic Bishops was in support of an R18+. Their reasoning was that, in a perfect world, the content that requires an R18+ would not exist. But the content does exist, and the best solution is to rate it appropriately. While Abbott’s moniker is the “Mad Monk”, he does have a background with the Jesuits who, aside from any religious issues one might have with them, are proponents of an intellectual approach. It is possible that he shares the opinion put forward by the Bishops.

    Granted, it is more likely, given the audience, that Abbott was playing on the ACL’s (and other conservative Christians’) desire for more stringent censorship.

    As much as the Liberal party appears to be dominated by religious conservatives, if they had supported the internet filter, we’d have it already. Whether this is based on a real support of freedom (as some would like to believe) or simple political expedience is yet to be determined.

    It’s also worth considering that, while the internet filter is Labor policy, that does not mean every Labor member supports it. The way the major parties operate – Labor in particular – is that no-one disagrees with official party policy. Liberal MPs have a bit more leeway, but voting against the party line in the ALP gets you kicked out of the party.

    In that context, it’s important to find out which ‘faction’ a party any given candidate is from before deciding they’re horrible and should be condemned for their party’s failings. A lot (but not all) of the Labor politicians I have met have been personally quite unhappy about a lot of things going on. If those people get voted out, and the more conservative members stay in, the party gets even more conservative. The same applies for the Libs.

    Brendan O’Connor is one of those people. He might not be carrying the flag for R18, but he’s stuck between a rock and a conservative place, despite his personal affiliation with the civil rights end of the party.

    The upcoming federal election is one where everyone, but gamers in particular, need to be careful we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Honestly, I just want to do anything I can to get Conroy out of office. We as gamers focused on Atkinson way too much (I believe), which has served as a nice little distraction from the internet filter.

    Neither party is getting my vote though, I might consider the greens if they showed common sense against the Climate Change scandal, and with the outrageous things they claim on their policies page, it doesn’t look like they’ll change their ideas soon.

    I just might not vote.

  • Regardless of his support, Do you want to see your PM in togs everyweek? It doesnt matter if the PM supports R18+, its each states AG that has to support it or have the whole of parliments support to have the legislation changed which could take years to happen.

  • Lets look at the facts:

    Conservative religionism is a bipartisan phenomenon in Australia. Censorship and social conservatism are bipartisan in Australia. Steven Conroy and Michael Atkinson are both members of the Australian Labor Party, after all.

    Is Abbot really any worse on the issue of censorship than Conroy or Atkinson? Even more pressing, remember that K Rudd is a devout, socially conservative Anglo-Catholic.

    Also, please note that Tony equivocated when he was asked the question. He said “the classification system is broken,” and both pro and anti-censorship people could interpret this as support for their position!

    I think if one’s going to “Single Issue Vote” on the subject of R18+, then neither major party has officially taken a sufficient stance for someone to grant either party their vote.

  • My reading of Abbott’s comment is that is was aimed at the supposed leniancy of the classification board in rating supposed child exploitation images a couple of years ago.
    Still a bit of a worry as i’d hate to see my copies of ‘Superman – the movie’ and Led Zeps ‘Houses of the Holy’ banned in some misguided attempt at protecting the children.

  • Hahahaha, love the comments that are like ‘Tony Abbot is Hitler’, ‘zomg religious conservatives’. Honestly if you look at the big picture the next election is stuck between lesser of the two evils. Rudd has shown himself to be useless, inefficient and seemed to spend more time breaking stuff that didn’t need fixing, and Tony comes off as an arrogant jerk. However neither of them have shown enough blunt support for either side of the R18+ debate for it to be used on the political platform. Not that anyone expects Kevin Rudd to actually fulfil his election promises.

    and to the guy who said ‘greens!’… hahaha seriously? I didn’t know anyone cared XD Nothing like spending more money on trees when people are out there losing their jobs 😀

  • Great to see gamers are infected with the same superficial level of understanding of politics as every other section of the Australian community.

    For those thinking that Abbott’s comment was a sign of something new, it wasn’t. It was a generic, vague remark intended to make the attendees feel good about themselves. And for those claiming Abbott is a hypocritical and heartless ideologue, stop acting like ignorant teenagers. You think swallowing Green’s party crap makes you more tolerant and sophisticated?

    Excellent comments by Chris Prior and milton give me hope.

    • I’m actually, usually, a Greens voter. Not because I’ve swallowed anything, but because – like democracy – they’re the least terrible* option available (with the obvious exception last election of G4C *cough*).

      I probably wouldn’t want Bob Brown for PM, but the Greens aren’t trying to form Government. They can afford for some of their policies to be a bit out there, because they won’t be put in a position to enact most of them. What they are is a bit of conscience* that is otherwise sorely lacking within Labor, the Coalition, and Family First.

      I suspect, actually, that a lot of the people who vote Greens (and a lot of the Greens’ recent surge in polls) are so because of the Greens’ civil liberties policies. R18+ and no cleanfeed being among them.

      That said, it’s less important (from a ‘democratic’ standpoint) who you vote for, and more important that you actually know why you would vote for them. Blind voting – even for the Greens – defeats the purpose of voting.

      Oh, and “ignorant teenagers” might not be that appropriate in this context. In my experience, people currently in their late teens, and 20s have a better understanding of politics than their seniors. More interest in politics full stop. Issues like R18 and cleanfeed are part of that as are, like it or not, the Greens. There’s still a lot of stupid out there, obviously.

      *opinion. everything else is analysis.

      • Family First is actually an unofficial branch of the Liberal Party. That is why it is so easy for some of the Liberals to move there when they stop being liked within Liberal ranks.
        I stopped working for the Liberal party in SA a decade ago.

  • There should be no church crap in parliament or anywhere in Government. Church and state is separate….except in the Vatican.

  • Everyone on both sides of the debate think the system is broken, I don’t think you’ll find anybody who think it works. But as other posters have said saying it’s Broken doesn’t say how you intend to fix it.

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