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.