READY: We Talk To The Australian Christian Lobby On R18+

Yesterday we reported that the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’ Connor released a literature review stating that “there is no conclusive evidence that violent computer games have a greater impact on players than other violent media, such as movies or music videos.” Given that this assertion was one of pillars of the anti-R18+ argument, we thought we'd speak directly to the Australian Christian Lobby, one of the loudest dissenters, to get their view on the new findings.

“Well look," began Lyle Shelton, Chief of Staff at the Australian Christian Lobby, "that report was a literature review, and we’re concerned that it would appear they’ve been a little bit selective with the literature. There is a vast body of evidence out there that shows a causal link between violent media and aggressive behaviour. I think they’ve been a little too hasty in coming to their conclusion, which I think is very much disputed.”

But having read through other literature reviews on the topic, such as Christopher J Ferguson's in the Review of General Psychology (published in June 2010), the government's independent study remains consistent with other findings. We asked Lyle what research he was referring to.

“Well the studies are listed in our submission for the consultation process," he began. "There’s the Anderson study, and others that I can’t remember off the top of my head. But just in the synopsis of the review, all of these researchers are dismissed as 'causationalists'. I think putting a label on someone doesn’t negate the substance of what they’re saying.

"To us, the review does seem a little bit glib," continues Lyle, "and a little bit hasty in dismissing some of the evidence that is out there. Also the literature review doesn’t deny there is a link - particularly in the short term - and it doesn’t dismiss the possibility of long term links. So I guess it comes down to the question: do we want to take risks with a violent new medium."

But wouldn't an R18+ rating help control that risk? There hasn't been a game banned in Australia for a long time - aren't parents far more likely to expose to children to violent video games without an R18+ rating to help inform them as to what content is suitable for their child?

"Well I disagree," claims Shelton. "You’re saying let’s lift the ban on violent video games and allow them into the country - legally, for the first time - and I don’t think that’s something parents would want. I think most parents feel that keeping these games out of the country is the most desirable thing for their children. It is naive to think that if the ban on these games was lifted they wouldn’t fall into the hands of children.

"There’s widespread agreement among politicians, parents and the general public that our classification system is broken. That’s been acknowledged by both Tony Abbot and Julia Gillard. The idea that we would then further liberalise our classification system and allow a new violent medium to be introduced when there’s widespread concern about lax classification standards is way out of step with where parents are on classification issues."

Now that the government commissioned literature review has stated that there is no difference between the affect of video games and other media, it would seem that the road is clear for an R18+ rating to receive the green light. But Lyle Shelton disagrees - the R18+ debate, to the Australian Christian Lobby, is part of the "liberalisation" of the classification system. We asked Lyle - should other media be restricted in a similar manner to video games?

"Absolutely," states Lyle. "We’ve just seen the classification board give the green light to a new film where adults are having sex with children, and all sorts of degrading things. We have to draw the line somewhere. The so-called artistic merit is allowing these things into the country. We need some sort of standard. That standard isn’t going to please everyone, but we need to protect innocent children wherever possible."


Comments

    I guess to this Christian group, ignorance is bliss...

    "You’re saying let’s lift the ban on violent video games and allow them into the country – legally, for the first time – and I don’t think that’s something parents would want."

    Err, what? Why don't these idiots realise that an R18+ rating *will not bring more violent games to the country*?!?!?

      I said that on the phone, which he agreed with, but then he still said this.

        You can't reason with an ideologue towing the party line.

          Pretty much.

            Seriously Mark, did it feel like you were talking to a brick wall? I know you weren't trying to convert him to your belief on the matter... (heh)... but seriously, did it feel frustrating?

              Like you said, there's little point in trying to change the mind of someone who has already made their mind up - this guy is representative of the ACL, the most vocal group against the R18+ rating. He's heard everything I have to tell mim a million times and ignored it a million times.

              But yeah, there was a real element of the broken record about his arguments, and the feeling that he was actively clutching at straws.

          *toeing* the party line.

        /facepalm

      I'm over these people not realising that an R18+ classification is NOT allowing "a new violent medium to be introduced" or "saying let’s lift the ban on violent video games" rather, it's classifying properly and responsibly what's already here.

      And this is the fundamental flaw in the anti R18+ argument - it is NOT about letting more games in but making sure they are rated more appropriately than they are now (games here at MA15+ but in the majority of the world are being being rated at 17 or 18+).

      These guys are just like the former SA AG Mr Atkinson - narrow minded and unable to look at all the information.

        These guys are just like the former SA AG Mr Atkinson – narrow minded and unable to look at all the information

        Ahh no, not unable, UNWILLING. Massive difference there

    WONT SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

    Same old stale argument. Like listening to a broken record.

    It seems pretty clear they are clinging onto a vague argument that isnt properly backed up.

    “There’s widespread agreement among politicians, parents and the general public that our classification system is broken. That’s been acknowledged by both Tony Abbot and Julia Gillard."

    Can't disagree there. The classification system is broken, introducing an R18+ rating would help fix it as the purpose of the system is to classify media allowing people to make informed decisions.

    "The idea that we would then further liberalise our classification system and allow a new violent medium to be introduced when there’s widespread concern about lax classification standards is way out of step with where parents are on classification issues.”

    I'm really wondering who is out of step here. A new violent medium is not being introduced and lax classification standards are a concern because there is no higher rating to allow for stricter standards to be enforced without undue and unnecessary censorship which is not the purpose of the classification system.

    The hint is in the name, Classification system, not censorship system.

    Mark, next time you talk to Lyle Shelton can you ask him where these violent games are coming from. Can he name developers that are just waiting to create and release increasingly violent games because a country that represents less than 1% of game sales in the world will have a game rating for adults?

    For everyone else if you'd like to look at a practical comparison of Australian game ratings versus the rest of the world, using Splatterhouse as a test case, then you might like to read this http://www.gametaco.net/?p=1510.

    Final point, I think we should ban all furniture that requires assembly from being imported into Australia. Trying to put some of that stuff together makes me angry. Definitive proof that putting together furniture increases aggression in the community.

    I get the impression he didn't listen to your questions. Case in point:

    "But wouldn’t an R18+ rating help control that risk? There hasn’t been a game banned in Australia for a long time – aren’t parents far more likely to expose to children to violent video games without an R18+ rating to help inform them as to what content is suitable for their child?

    “Well I disagree,” claims Shelton. “You’re saying let’s lift the ban on violent video games and allow them into the country – legally, for the first time – and I don’t think that’s something parents would want. I think most parents feel that keeping these games out of the country is the most desirable thing for their children. It is naive to think that if the ban on these games was lifted they wouldn’t fall into the hands of children."

    The fact is they are getting into the country, at a level which is much more accessible than they should be. An R18+ rating won't change the RC rules (unless they decide to change them as well), it will simply split up the current content into the more appropriate ratings, and thus it will inform the parents in a more clear and vivid manner that these games are definitely not for their kids.

    Am I surprised by his reponse? No. Am I surprised by him dodging your questions and repeating his mantra? No. Am I surprised by him, even off the top of his head, not being able to name the critical papers he felt were missing from the lit review? No. Am I disappointed his views are getting considerable mileage in the mainstream press? Very.

    Not long to wait now though.

    I'm offended as a parent that it's assumed I wish to be ignorant and tunnel-visioned.

      Wait, you mean you don't want to be ignorant and tunnel-visioned? Wow. This changes everything!

      Seriously, though, it gets annoying that religious groups think they can control what we see, say, do, think, etc. Especially when I'm not even a part of their religion.

        Try to imagine how annoying it is when a political group speak on behalf of a faith-group you DO belong to, and get everything completely wrong. Most Christians I know (my self included) are strongly in favor of an R18+ rating, for the exact reasons mentioned on Sunrise. It help parents protect the kids (and after all, won't someone think of the children?????)

          Amen and amen.

          I agree too, I think there's plenty of games currently rated MA15+ which should, or would, be rated R18+ if they were any other form of media.

    The arguement should never be about MY preferences. They, by necessity should be about the most vulnerable in society. Thus regulation isn't optional - its necessary. The research is clear - far too much "adult" material falls into minor's hands.

      "The research is clear – far too much “adult” material falls into minor’s hands."

      I think sir; you have a very limited viewpoint on life. Many things are suitable for Adults but not children, Sex for example. I dont think for a second you plan on outlawing sex. Do you? How about alcohol or Cigarettes.

      I know, I know I am being facetious. Lets look at something closer to what you propose. Lets look at banning books that are inappropriate for a child? What you ask… an example… OK how about this in a book.

      "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses."
      Ezekiel 23:20

      I’d say that’s pretty inappropriate for children. So by your reasoning we should not have this in the country at all. You know what, I agree!
      Lets ban the bible.

      In fact considering almost 300 children died in Jonestown following a “religion” and I would say that death is a pretty significant impact on a child’s life I say lets just ban religion all together. (You know just to be safe and prevent harm to the “most Vunerable”)

    Imagine if the current rules forbade any R18+ movies from being available in Australia, but instead of any movies actually getting banned, they were released in Australia with an MA15+ rating, allowing children to get easier access to them and misinforming parents as to the nature of the content. That is what the current system is like with video games. A more accurate classification system will only lead to better control - I honestly believe that the Christian Lobby is actively working against a system that will protect the children.

    You may as well have posted an interview with a brick wall. You would have got a more intelligent response.

    That's not to poo-poo the interview though, it's good to see them done and you did well. But yeah, these people are just so frustrating.

    They seem absolutely convinced that R18+ rating is a push for MORE violent games. *sigh*

      Hang on - everybody here seems to be forgetting that, well, it *is* a push for more violent games. This "better classification" thing is part, but not all of what we're seeking to have amended.

      Remember, this whole push started because we were pissed off when games were actually being banned, or heavily edited to avoid being banned.

      Ask yourself - would you consider it a total win if the attorneys general agreed to an R18+ rating, but only if it had *exactly* the same maximum acceptable bounds as the existing MA15 rating? I know that I wouldn't!

        I wouldn't say no to a R18+ with the same as MA15+, in the short term if the long term was to draw a more common line between Movie / Game / Book on what it was to be R. Hopefully the report will allow for the most of the movie rating guidelines to move across, as "not higher impact" and in line with movies.

        An awful lot of MA15+ should be in R18+, that's most of the point.

    Well we've got trouble friends, right here in River City.
    It starts with Tee and that rymes with Pee and that stands for pool.
    Why yes we've got trouble (trouble) right here in River City...

    But what would Brian Boitano do?

    He'd kick the Christian Lobby back to the dark ages where they belong. They don't care about anything except pushing their own 'morally righteous' agenda & have no idea how the world REALLY works.

    Those idiots are up there with Benny Hinn & other degenerates as a fine example of why religious nuts are just that - nuts.

    Mark did you set up poor Lyle by asking for other media to be restricted if unsuitable for children? Because the first thing on that list would have to be the Bible.

    Plenty of incestial sex, bigamy etc not to mention the levvel of violence.

    Oh may I also mention that Mary was probably about 13-14 when she gave birth to Jesus.

    I wonder if Joseph thought of her as a child?

    Also here plenty of more banable offences.

    http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/index.htm

    I make a point of not reading (would you like your) News Limited papers, but sitting down for a haircut this morning, this is what I got-http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/special-features/report-on-video-games-clears-way-for-r18-rating/story-e6frg1ac-1225964362771 -if the Sydney Telegraph (and its ilk) are finally writing articles like this, and publishing articles with even the slightest lean in *our* direction, then the R18+ argument must finally be making headway, and any gamer should be happy with that..

      Yep, but the Sydney Morning Herald made a meal of their story.

    Last I checked 18 year olds aren't children. It's the parents and retailers responsibility to follow the classification system.

    sorry, thought the link would *happen*

    Not surprised.

    Not surprising also that this kind of people make it hard to keep faith in humanity

      Why do website/media keep giving these fanatics a soapbox to stand on ??

      Kotaku.com.au is another site i will have to add to my boycott list.

      Anyone that gives these twits a soapbox to spread their hate, discrimination and religious propaganda are as bad as them.

      Sorry Kotaku, I have enjoyed reading your site... Up till now. I shall return when you stop giving religious bigots a place to spread their fear mongering propaganda.

      "I think most parents feel that keeping these games out of the country is the most desirable thing for their children. "

      They are already here for one......

        Are you serious? Did you read the article at all?

          I think Kane has something of a point, actually, though I do think it's somewhat inadvertent. Why do media organizations continue to give the ACL a prominent voice in public debates? Every interview request they get simply increases their profile, to the point where the level of influence they have in the public arena is incredibly disproportionate to their actual support base. This sort of thing only serves to lend them legitimacy, rather than write them off as the fanatical fringe element they are.

        Uhhh seriously read the article dude.

        Sure it's allowing the ACL somewhere to say their comments, but since Kotaku is at least trying (honestly I'd say succeeding) to provide good journalism on this issue they're allowing both sides space to make their point, rather than sensationalising and only allowing people on their side of the argument a voice.

        Even so if you read the article you'd notice the ACL really doesn't need much help to look like a bunch of ignorant fools. Their arguments have no basis and their "evidence" is vapour.

        I think you are over reacting a bit. This is one of so many articles about this issue. If you never ask why someone opposes your idea you can't change there mind. This group has been very vocal on the topic so it makes sense to ask them. But as you can see from the all the comments here, no one puts much stock in their arguments.

        Maybe you should read the article and comments again.

    We have to stop the small minority groups controlling our rights.
    Australia and especially the Gillard government treat its citizens like retarded children. (No offense to the retarded children out there.)
    Regular movies are FAR more influential than a games, yet we can have blood splattering violent shows on at prime time for the family to watch, but this mob want to stop adults buying adult games.
    The end of the day, people will simply buy the games online anyway. I have had to do that a number of times, resulting in profits going overseas and zero control on what kids are buying!
    The christian groups and other minorities are destroying Australia and turning it into dictatorship country.
    Lay off of the games, lay off of the Filters, the monitoring, the breaches of basic human rights and go read a good book, (one that hasn't go a cross on the front of it!)

      Don't drag Gillard into this, the minority Christian Lobby has its hooks into both parties but the Right more than the Left.
      Thankfully the Greens will block the filter, so hopefully it will never see the parliament floor.

    "I think most parents feel that keeping these games out of the country is the most desirable thing for their children". Right, when every poll conducted on the issue says otherwise. Who's being "a little bit selective" now?

    Good work mark. It is good to see the other side respond to some direct questions. Even if we don't agree with the answers.

    No nothing gets banned in australia, it just gets watered down so that it may be sold in australia

    Where children then purchase these games because of the lack of an R18 rating

    Works completely against the idea of protecting children.

    I was going to write something constructive and insightful but most of you guys have already written it and everyone here already knows it.

    My synopsis of this interview and the Australian Christian Lobby...

    *facepalm*

    Honestly, it would take less than 10 minutes of research to debunk all the arguments they are leaning on, yet they still have people who believe their drivel and are getting more widespread media coverage.

    Well done Mark for not reaching through the phone and slapping Lyle. I can imagine you finished that phone conversation with much anger and red forehead ;)

    Hey... games don't make people angry, Christian lobbyists do!

    Splatter House was recently released here an, one again, we are the only developed western nation where one does not have to be 18 to play it - you only have to be 15 and over.

    Will someone please put such facts to the Christian Lobby, point out to them that there is also the classification code which would stop any flood and that the flood they keep preaching already exists under the MA 15+ bracket.

      Facts to the ACL are irrelevant in this(anything); this is entirely about their right to tell us what content we should or shouldn't be viewing. The "protect the children" idea is used as a guise to hide their true agenda. I feel sorry for kids, always being used as fodder for folks like this.

    There is a vast body of evidence out there that shows a causal link between violent media and aggressive behaviour.

    [citation needed]

    Seriously, there's no point even talking to them. They've made up their minds already, and their postion is not and will not ever be swayed by logic or reason, because that's not the basis of their position in the first place.

      Shelton seems to accuse the report's authors of bias for selectively using evidence, without realising that the ACL's own use of a few reports to justify a "causal link between violent media and aggressive behaviour" is biased in itself.

      Personally and obviously I'd trust an independent government commission over the ACL. Arguing against the evidence because they don't like its conclusion is absurd. You're right that their minds are already made up.

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