The Classification Review Begins: How Does This Affect R18+?

We've just received word that the Classification Review, to be undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission - announced back in December by Robert McLelland and the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor - is now under way, and will evaluate the classification laws with a means to updating them to suit the current digital media landscape.

The last review was undertaken over 20 years ago and, according to McClelland, this is a long overdue look at classification laws in Australia.

“Given the advances in technology and media we’ve seen since then, it is timely this work is undertaken," he claimed.

“I’ve asked the ALRC to develop options for ensuring the system of classification in Australia is able to accommodate developments in technology in light of media convergence and the global availability of media content.”

Brendan O'Connor, who has taken the lead in the R18+ debate, also commented.

“A lot has changed in recent years. Australians now access content through the Internet and mobile phones and that poses challenges for the existing classification scheme,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We’re also seeing the convergence of different technology platforms and the worldwide accessibility of some content, which also creates new concerns,” he said.

“Australians need to be confident that our classification system will help them make informed choices about what they choose to read, see, hear and play.

“That’s particularly important for parents who rely on the National Classification Scheme to make sensible choices for their children."

The ALRC, which was initially supposed to report back by December, will not be presenting its final report until January 30, 2012.

It's important to note that this Classification Review is seperate to the R18+ guidelines that Brendan O'Connor has commissioned for the upcoming SCAG meeting in July. The Classification Review is intended to be a broad look at how classification works in this country, while the R18+ guidelines are specific to video games themselves, focusing on how an adult rating would function in Australia.

When we spoke to Brendan O'Connor towards the end of last year, he was keen to emphasise that the two were distinct issues.

However, even he wasn't able to discount the possibility that the Attorneys-General may wish to wait until this broader review is presented before making a final decision on R18+. The good news, however, is that there is a possibility that the ALRC will come back with a set of recommendations that allow for more industry regulation of video game content.

“You know, I don’t want to jinx the findings of the Australian Law Review Commission,” O'Connor claimed, cautiously, “but that’s a path we may have to look at.

“I think there’ll probably have to be some sort of balance – there needs to be a complimentary approach where we work together towards some sort of self regulation.”

The Classification Review has been in the works since December last year, but it's reassuring to see that the review is finally underway. According to the press release the review will focus on:

- existing Commonwealth, State and Territory classification laws; - the current classification categories contained in the Classification Act, Code and Guidelines; - the rapid pace of technological change; - the need to improve classification information available to the community; - the effect of media on children; and - the desirability of a strong content and distribution industry in Australia.

Those in the know, including Paul Hunt, the ex-Deputy Director of the Classification Board, claimed that the Australian Law Review Commission are a well respected group who can be trusted to come up with the correct, pragmatic path to adjusting classification in this country.

“I think the ALRC will provide a practical series of recommendations,” claims Paul. “I’ve seen their previous work and it’s good. So I’m assuming they’ll provide some really good recommendations again.”

Let's hope the right decisions are made, and that this Classification Review doesn't obstruct the R18+ issue at the upcoming SCAG meeting in July.

The ABC has uploaded the press release, which you can read here.


Comments

    Did their media release have a midnight embargo or something?

      It came through after midnight. Much to the chagrain of my missus, who is grumpy that I'm up doing work right now!

        I love that you are working and that people in Aus are reading this so late. What is it about gamers and not sleeping??

        Sorry to mrs serrels but you know we appreciate it.

        Just buy her a John Mayer CD. Every woman ever goes apeshit when that guy sings.

          Sage advice.

            I think he's a repugnant little toad, but anywho...

    So.... what.. another 2-4 years?

    Well, this commission has pretty much given the SCAG a good reason to stall again until next year.

    Mark... kudos for dedication to the site!

    Hope something good turns out of this review : )

    Ah "Poly-ticks" at midnight, they truely are vampires

    Any progress is good news!

    They also tweeted a link to a subscription of the updates of proceedings I'm pretty sure

    Good news I suppose but I wonder if anyone is able to find out if Warner Bros will be re-submitting an edited version by the date originally planned for the release of Mortal Kombat

      Nope. They've made it pretty clear that they refuse to reach a compromise with our laws. We either get the product they intended to sell, or we get squat.

    I appreciate the efforts of your late night news posting work but. . . sorry, Im not reading that.
    Im not reading that, not getting my hopes up. Nothing will change.

    Brendan O'Connor mentioned in an article I was reading in Adelaide Now that he was going to introduce a R18+ rating because he's sick of Australia being a laughing stock.

    If the R rating is delayed until this review is done then I will be convinced that they're just hoping to delay it so long that we all die of old age.

    Hmm let's see here.

    If the AGs wait for the ALRC report, oh wait should I say WHEN the AGs wait for the ALRC report - that's Jan 2012. First SCAG is in say, March 2012. If then the AGs, by some divine miracle, all agree then they'll put forth their recommendations for the R18+ rating but nothing will actually be passed into law for at least 6-12 months.

    We're talking 2013-2014 here. Maybe. Greeeeat.

    I think the important quote is "..will help them make informed choices about what they choose to read, see, hear and play." It should explicitly NOT impinge on freedom of choice, for adults.

    I'm hoping that they do push for industry rating systems. Then maybe the ludicrous $2000 or so charge to get your game classified in Australia will go away as well, and we can start getting access to things like XBLIG

      I honestly don't see that there's any alternative to move entirely to a model of industry self-regulation. The volume of classifiable content is already enormous to the point of being unmanageable, and the fees and delays for content that must be classified actively discourage new entrants to the Australian market. Convergence also makes format-based classification (i.e. one set of rules for print, film, games, etc) unworkable at best. Industry codes are more flexible and adaptable. It would probably be best if we could simply co-opt a code being used elsewhere; for games PEGI looks like the best bet.

        This is especially true as the casual games market increases.
        If every iPhone, Facebook and Flash game in Australia has to go through the current classification system it's just going to cost the taxpayers a ridiculous amount for something that should be covered by common sense.

    I was about to comment, but the last two comments from Matthew and NegativeZero cover things pretty well.

    As an Australian indie game developer, it is absurd and frustrating that you can't get my XBLIG games in Australia!

    Hopefully they won't go the other way, and decide that online or mobile games also need to be rated at $2000 a go. Some of us aren't EA.

    Two words: Industry Regulation. Across the whole media spectrum. The ACB should be auditors ONLY. They should not be the people responsible for classifying EVERYTHING. And while we're at it, abolish the RC bracket entirely, since it is completely useless and archaic in this day and age (not to mention morally questionable). Just do what Sweden does and keep crimes as crimes (eg. ownership of child porn and hate speech), but abolish censorship entirely.

    But no we can't do any of that can we? Cause that'll screw over Comrade Conroy's glorious internet censorship regime (which was the whole reason for this review in the first place), not to mention give adults the right to view, play, listen to and read whatever they want whenever they want. Oh and, as I'm led to believe, it'll cause the nation's children to become violent sociopaths over night.

    I guarantee that all that'll come out of this review is an even stricter classification system. There's no way in hell that they'll try to make it more open and fair.

    I hope this doesn't turn out like the Henry review of the tax system.
    A huge number of common sense recomendations... only 2 of which were accepted by the government.

    The whole system does need looking at... 20 years between reviews is a joke.

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