The Classification Review: The ACL And Elizabeth Handsley State Their Case

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The Classification Review: The ACL And Elizabeth Handsley State Their Case

The Classification Review is now underway, with the first committee hearing taking place last Friday. Said hearing didn’t discuss the R18+ issue directly, as a result of the upcoming SCAG meeting in July, but plenty of anti-R18+ campaigners, including Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, were in attendance and commented directly on broader issues of classification.

Lyle Shelton, who represented the Australian Christian Lobby at the hearing, was typically aggressive in his approach – his statements peppered with the language we’ve come to expect from the ACL.

“At present the contemporary media environment is toxic for children; as the PM notes, especially for girls,” claimed Shelton. “This is because our classification system is a failure. Like big tobacco before it, commercial vested interests will beg to differ with family groups, child advocates and the academic research which shows their products are harmful to children. How many more government inquiries will there be before action is taken?”

This was similar to Lyle Shelton’s previous arguments with regards to the R18+ rating, claiming that “commercial interests” were being prioritised over the needs of children. Again, Lyle Shelton did not refer to any research specifically, preferring to speak in broader, emotive terms.

Later he addressed the concept of self regulation in Classification, with regards to advertising. Brendan O’Connor previously stated that some kind of self regulation may be advisable when it came to video games, but Shelton and the ACL staunchly disagreed with the concept, calling it a “‘Dracula in charge of the blood bank’ approach”.

Incredibly, he also openly questioned the ability of parents to regulate the media usage of their own children.

“Parents, however, do not distinguish between the complex rules governing media content, whether it is film, literature, television, mobile phones, the internet, computer games or outdoor advertising, he claimed. “Parents just see the relentless mainstreaming of violence and sex pushed by vested commercial interests thumbing their noses at the standards of civil society.”

Elizabeth Handsley has previously spoken out against the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games. She agreed with the ACL that self-regulation could be problematic, but whereas Lyle Shelton clearly believed the current classification scheme was a “failure”, Handsley disagreed.

“Contrary to statements that have recently been made by various players in this debate,” she stated, “we do not believe that the classification system is ‘broken’ Our National Classification Scheme can hold its head high in having an almost uniform set of classification categories that are easy for people to come to grips with and having many checks and balances and overall consistencies, unlike America with its different categories for different media and its self-regulatory non-enforceable system.”

“The guidelines,” she claimed, “have been too subjective, lacking the more specific criteria that were in use until 2002 to 2003. In our view this has resulted in more violence at lower levels of classification, easily accessible to children and in the current community there are concerns about the very violent games now in the MA15+ category for games.”

Handsley’s colleague from the Australian Council on Children and the Media, Barbara Biggins, who wrote an opinion piece on R18+ earlier this week, took issue with the way media was sold and distributed in the country.

“When you are looking at the legally classified categories of MA15+ and R18+,” she said, “there is certainly very good evidence that it is almost impossible to enforce the age restrictions on portable items such as DVDs and computer games. It is almost impossible to protect children despite what the law says because once those portable items are out of the retail outlet then there are very few controls.”

At first glance the members of the committee appeared skewed towards the conservative side, populated with almost every outspoken opponent of R18+ we could name, but speaking to Ron Curry earlier this afternoon, he confirmed that he had, in fact, provided his own submission to those undertaking the Classification Review, and he hoped to be invited to speak to the committee at a later date.

During this specific hearing, however, Dr Sarah Ailwood, Assistant Professor at the University of Canberra, provided a strong dissenting voice.

“I just wanted to emphasise,” she began, “that I was making my submission as someone who is actually experienced at playing games. I think quite a few of the people who have contributed to this debate are not necessarily aware of the nature of games and the way they are playing online, the way that massively multi-player online games work, and the way that different console systems work. I just wanted to emphasise that my submission is made from a position of experience and understanding of those things.”

She also spoke extensively on the difficulties involved in classifying online content.

“The idea that content is delivered through designated specific streams, I think those days are over,” claimed Ailwood. “It is being delivered on various different kinds of devices, through portable devices, through internet to computers, it is being delivered to gaming consoles, it is being delivered direct to television, and a forward looking regime really needs to take into account that convergence.”

Despite the fact that this committee had explicit instructions to avoid discussing the possibility of an R18+ rating for video games, Dr Ailwood could not avoid addressing the proverbial elephant in the room.

“There are arguments that there are detrimental effects because we do not have an R18+ classification for video games,” she continued. “Games here are regularly classified MA15+ when they are classified R18+ in other jurisdictions. The fact that we only have an M15+ classification, which basically requires that any game that is not suitable for minors is refused classification, sends a signal that every game that is available in Australia is suitable for minors, and anyone who is playing Grand Theft Auto would disagree with that. The fact that we do not have an R18+ classification is misleading, and that is one argument. Obviously there are various other arguments you could make about civil liberties and freedom of expression and the ability of adult gamers to be able to play games that they choose and games that are available elsewhere.”

At this point, her colleague Bruce Arnold chimed in: “Why we are quarantining a particular cultural form; why are we quarantining content on the basis of its delivery?”

Why indeed.

Comments

  • God just drop this already we will never get a R18+ system….. And if we do get one it will be half assed where games like mortal kombat will still get banned.

    How many bloody years have we been wanting a R+ system and it never came i doubt things will change.

    sigh…

    • God just drop this already Tunisia will never be rid of it’s government…

      God just drop this already Egypt will never be rid of it’s goverment…

      God just drop this already we will never get a R18+ system…

      We will when we have public that will fight for it – we don’t need violence to get this to happen we need less apathy.

      I’m part of the problem anything other then my opinion on the internet is too much effort for me but at least I am honest enough to admit it.

    • Because fundamentalists complain the loudest, and more people have conservative/fundamentalist religious views and sympathies than most people are willing to recognize. This country isn’t as progressive as some people might think.

      Folks like the ACL love the idea they are morally superior to the rest of us and it should be their decision alone to decide what we view, hear, say and feel.

      • To clarify: the ACL have a right to voice their concerns or views, I’m not suggesting they don’t, but when it is so obvious their concerns are more about dictating classification than “saving the children” that is when we can call bullshit and point out their real agenda.

  • “there is certainly very good evidence that it is almost impossible to enforce the age restrictions on portable items such as DVDs and computer games. It is almost impossible to protect children despite what the law says because once those portable items are out of the retail outlet then there are very few controls.”

    Nonsense. Where is this evidence she speaks of?

    Parental locks are routine in console systems and even DVD players. As far as I’m aware, they’ve been in Nintendo hand-held consoles and will feature in the NGP.

    To suggest that firstly, parents would buy their children R18+ software and allow them to play it with little more than a cursory glance, and secondly, not take advantage of parental control software, is ridiculous.

    Then Lyle Shelton suggests parents are too dumb to distinguish between classification systems. For a member of the Australian Christian Lobby he has a surprising lack of faith in parents.

    I’d find it amusing, if it wasn’t so absurd and serious.

    • I’m also curious about this. If it’s impossible to enforce these things then surely kids are able to waltz in and buy grog and smokes as well then.

      If it’s impossible to enforce these things.

      and you know what, if we can only enforce these things in places that sell cigarettes and booze. Sell them there then. They are adult content putting them in locations that only adults can make legitimate purchases will send warning bells when your kid says hey mum can we go to the bottle-O i need GTA 5.

      Hell sell them in sex shops. Same thing applies does it not. If the issue is that in a conventional store they are hard to enforce. Sell them somewhere that is enforceable.

      • i have to say that they are right I am 16 now and I have been playing call of duty since I was around 9 or 10 I watched robo cop when I was 10 and my parents knew about almost all of this they are right that we cant control it but they are right to try and a R18 rating is one way to try seeing as how the current system is not working at all

  • So what voice do the proR18+ players have in all this? Where are our guys to counter all these biased, unevidenced claims?

  • The ACL having a say in this debate, is like the Westboro Baptist Church to be trusted on having non-biased input on the legalization of gay marrage.

  • “At this point, her colleague Bruce Arnold chimed in: “Why we are quarantining a particular cultural form; why are we quarantining content on the basis of its delivery?”

    Why indeed.”

    It’s good to see that some sensible questions are being asked in what is quickly becoming a sea polluted with misinformation by groups like the Australian Christian League and the Australian Council on Children and the Media.

  • ACL staunchly disagreed with the concept, calling it a “‘Dracula in charge of the blood bank’ approach”.

    Woah Woah Woah there.

    First you tell me jesus is real and now Dracula is too. Come on man your gonna scare the bejesus out of these Kids

  • Mark, I don’t know how you can do this. Everytime I see idiots spouting the same old misinformed crap, my brain punches me for reading it.

  • “Parents can’t decide” Mmmm thank you Christain lobby, whats that? You’d like 10% of my pay and me to come along every Sunday to be told how to live my life.
    Religon = control, hopefully saner heads prevail and we get the rating system that the rest of the western world already uses.

  • Parents don’t have the ability to know whether a game is suitable now?

    Bullshit, my mum was extremely strict, I was never bought a MA15+ game by her, and if a game involved killing humans, I’d not be able to play it, hell, even now she sees me playing COD and says that it’s too violent!

    It’s only the airbrained parents who just want their kids to shut up who get them the games, but I’m sure even those parents would be scared away by the black diamond!

  • “At present the contemporary media environment is toxic for children; as the PM notes, especially for girls”

    oh! protect the chilluns. If anything, no 18+ rating is harming kids more then protecting them. An R-rating screams to parents “not suitable for children” I mean, I had to provide ID when I was buying True Blood (which is and R-rated dvd)

    We have an R-rating for everything else so, why not Video Games? oh right, because all games are for children…

  • Barbara Biggins clearly has issues with the way retailers sell games to minors but that is something gameshops can do by selling games that should be 18 to 15 year olds. Do these people not realise that they are proven their arguments wrong themselves? If a gme is rated 18, I am sure games stores will only sell to Adults and Parents who are above the said age limit. By not having an 18 rating like the rest of the western world, all we are doing is denying our citizens because of some washed out ideal that the retailers can’t be trusted. Just as most people will buy Mortal Kombat over seas, most likely above 18 year olds as they need a credit card, the whole protectionism thing is been taken from the parents and the Christian Lobby or these opposing religious nuts are trying to dictate what Australia is. Surely there is no place for these relgious ideals in our society. I for one want an 18 rating for games I should be able to buy but I also wouldn’t like those games to be played by a younder group either. I think I am big and bold enough to know what a minor should and can play. GTA, MK, AvsP, atc. is not those games. But they are for me, I want to be able to entertain myself with something designed with the older person in mind. God help these people when the real religious nuts start taking things into their own hands… America has seen this recently, grow up for the sake of us all!

  • Hey Lyle Shelton.
    If i can prove Christianity is harmful to children, will you please leave things that have nothing to do with your religion/organization alone to the adults…

  • I don’t know what the ACL are talking about!! The Bible is one of the most violent fictional books I have ever read!! It should be R18+

    • Now that’s a plan

      I say if we don’t get our R rating by 2013 we all move to get the bible rated R and therefore illegal to expose it to children!!!

  • The ACL comments aren’t surprising. The ACL’s ideal world is one where the church defines all aspects of public life and no one can so much as fart without getting their permission and ensuring to do it in the way they proscribe. I don’t understand why they have so much political clout when they are really a fringe group even in Christian circles.

    Barbara Biggins is a bit the same. “Classification is not enforced adequately”, if true, is still not an argument for not having a proper, modern classification system. It’s an argument for improving awareness of the ratings and enforcing penalties on retailers who fail with their legal responsibilities.

    Handsley’s second lot of comments toward the end of this article completely spin me out. She really said that? Quoted the entire crux of the Pro-18+ argument? I thought she was opposed…

  • All I can say is ‘Its about time someone who actually knows what the hell they are talking about!” Bless you Dr Sarah Ailwood you are a beacon of hope in the storm of garbage that has been thrown around for what seems like forever, we finally have have hope people!

  • It’s good to see that some people are finally beginning to understand that covering your ears and shutting your eyes is not going to stop the world from moving on. ACB… we do not live back in 0BC.

    The rapid development of online delivery systems and the worldwide availability of software tends to make the classification system irrelevent. Its only chance of retaining some form of regulation is reform and the introduction of an R18+ rating, because at the moment, 15+ seems fine, at a glance, to be “fine for the children”.

  • “Our National Classification Scheme can hold its head high in having an almost uniform set of classification categories that are easy for people to come to grips with and having many checks and balances and overall consistencies, unlike America with its different categories for different media and its self-regulatory non-enforceable system.”

    Oh wait, you’re serious. Let me laugh even harder.

  • The ACL calling the video game industry a Dracula is easily the most hilarious thing I’ve ever read on this site.

    “Hello, my name is Twilight and I am a Dracula” anybody?

    Next they’ll start making “Hitler as the PM of Israel” comparisons. This is a political threat we should take seriously?

    They’re making a lot of noise, sure, but like any constant noise you tend to tune it out after a little while.

  • Someone hand me a tissue, I’m crying for the poor little corrupted children.

    This debate became a joke a long time ago. This isn’ about the children anymore. This is about Fundamentalist conservatives trying to exert their control over Australians because it gives them that….”Funny feeling”.

  • Perhaps they should make politics R18+
    That way all these ultraconservative babies won’t be exposed to things they lack the maturity and intelligence to comprehend…

  • “thumbing their noses at the standards of civil society”

    98% of the population that was polled on the matter voted in favour of an R18+ category. Does this mean he is calling the majority of Australians uncivil because we have different standards to what he considers acceptable? Where the hell does he get the right to make that accusation?

    There is NO documented proof of long-term derogatory effects of violent or sexual games that I am aware of, and most short-term effects are usually attributed to frustration or a pre-existing mental condition. It’s time to stop cowering in fear of the new, time to stop listening to that too-damn-vocal 2% of the population, and start listening to what Australians have been saying for over 10 years:

    Give us our damn R18+ already

  • Since the bible is a book based on strong Supernatural Themes, Extreme acts of violence, sex, torture, nudity, Patricide, Infancide and Genocide it should have at least an MA15+ Rating right.

    At one point in the bible, the only “good” man in the city of Gomora attempts to pimp both his underage daughters…

  • I think one of the major issues is that the people that make these decisions don’t have any experience with video games and still see them as a purely children’s medium, which I don’t believe to be true.

    I’m not a religious person, but I believe people should be free to have their own beliefs. However, when they force their beliefs and moral compass on others, I start to take issue. It’s up to all people to decide what is acceptable in society.

    Is there any way we can get a referendum on this issue, so the people of Australia can decide as a whole? Forgive my ignorance on how it works, but I think it would be a great way to get it sorted in a fair manner.

  • Their arguments are flawed and pointless. They argue that they don’t want an R+ classification and then say there is too much content being placed in MA15+ because they don’t have a R+ rating. That’s why we want the R18+ rating passed. That way we have all content classified correctly for consumers. They are arguing the same point that PALGN & GAME submitted with their petition to get the R18+ passed. The ACL is the spokesperson for fail.

  • “Our National Classification Scheme can hold its head high in having an almost uniform set of classification categories that are easy for people to come to grips with and having many checks and balances and overall consistencies”

    Can some please tell me that quote is just a well hidden April Fool’s joke, please?

    Consistent?

    When Duke Nukem gets rated MA15+ while Mortal Combat get banned? When Fallout 3 got banned and later modified while Fear 3 got banned by later reviewed and later rated MA 15+?

    And my personal favorite, GTA4 for the PC getting rated MA15+ (unedited) while the console version had to be modified.

    For those wondering, yes, I know it basically gets reverted to an unedited form when one installs the Ballad of Big Tony (I forget the name as I am not a player of GTA4).

    If there is consistency, I am not seeing it.

  • I’m pretty sure every console available on the market, whether it be a home console or a handheld, have Parental controls which lockout games of a certain rating.

    This fact alone blows this whole idea of “think about the harm its causing the little kiddies” argument completely out of the water. As far as I’m aware, witht he exception of DVD’s there are no other tools available to parents for any other media type that allow them to so effectively police and curtail the content their children have access to.

    This is like having an argument about whether or not “money isnt everything” and holding up a piece of cheese. “This is a piece of cheese. Cheese is not money. Ergo, money cannot possibly be everything.”

    But then again… this would require a little effort and self-education on the parents part… we couldnt possibly expect that of them could we.

    /facedesk.

    • “I’m pretty sure every console available on the market, whether it be a home console or a handheld, have Parental controls which lockout games of a certain rating.”

      I do not mean to be rude, but why even bother with that?

      Common sense states that consoles should be kept in a open area in plain view of the parents.

      And if the kids misbehave there is always the ultimate of parental controls – removing the power cord!

      • I dont mean to be rude myself, but if this debate is an illustration of anything, its that there is nothing common about common sense.

        • You’re not being rude at all.

          It just shows that I am of the old mold – where one checked his or her facts before running off his or her mouth and that the ones ultimately responsible for kids are parents, not the freaking government.

          Then again, based on how Gillard and Abott behave at question time, I do not see a sensible resolution any time soon.

          Seriously, can some explain to me how if I act like a 4 year old in public I am told to act my age while those in question time don’t even get a slap on the wrist?

  • As a parent I am getting really sick of the presumption that I can not adequately take care of my children! My eldest son, who is just shy of 7 has known for a good couple of years that if there isn’t a little G symbol on the front then it isn’t good for him – see easy. As he gets older I will certainly be applying parental locks and will continue to keep inappropriate material where he can’t get to it!

    As a gamer I am tired of hearing the same statements said over and over again by the same people who have no idea about the medium and getting an official hearing every damn time!

    As a gaming parent I am in a much better position to protect my children from inappropriate content that any of these groups who claim the are “protecting the children”. To the ACL and associates, get out of my face, get out of my games and stay the hell away from my children!

  • Ahh the almighty Australian Christian Lobby. The true power in Australian politics.

    It’s only a matter of time before they push for Evolution to be banned in schools and replaced with Intelligent Design (of course dinosaurs existed at the same time as man) and, like Georgia in the US, try to push forward laws making women who are raped and report it, convicted under defamation laws.

  • At the end of the day, if for some stupid reason we don’t have an overhaul of the Classification system it is a travesty to Democracy. All those signatures prove the people want it implemented for very similar reasons. If the current elected Government don’t ct for the people, the will be removed end of story. There is NO PLACE for Religion in Politics… END OF STORY!

  • Okay. This is something I wanted to make everyone aware of the next time this issue came up.

    In regards to the Australian Council on Children and the Media’s arguement that we should not have an R18+ classification, one of their main arguments for this is that parents cannot control access of media to their children. And that restricted media is available to children readily, easily, and in venues where their parents have no control over what they view.

    Their main source for this argument is from a survey performed in 1985.
    Yes, they are basing their argument from data collected OVER 25 YEARS AGO.

    This is where their arguement falls down. If it was more recent data, they may have a valid point. But the fact that it’s a 25 year old report, and coupled with the fact that they do not display this reference on their website (I had to get it by requesting it via email), means that they really don’t have a leg to stand on in this arguement. Their argument is flawed from the get go.

    • Sorry for the double post, but something I’d like to know now, is if there is a way to find out of their non-profit organisation receives government funding, and who I need to write to in order to get their funding reviewed in light of out of date information presented for their arguments.

  • It’s more the fact that when a parent walks into their local EB Games and Little Jonny at the age of 10 wants GTA4 because all of his mates at school have it, the parent can and most likely will purchase it despite any education the sales assistant can give to the meaning of “Strong violence, Strong coarse language, Drug and sexual references.”

    And when one does get that hey, maybe this isn’t suitable for my child’s consumption and informs the child of this, more often than not it results in quite the tantrum and the child getting the game because of the embarrassment of the parent.

    Working in one of these stores, I saw this scenario play out a hundred times over and all of its variations. Including being verbally abused and spat at by a father whose 8 year old son was unable to purchase by himself a copy of Gears of War 2.

    It’s illegal for a sales assistant to sell a MA15+ game to a minor but there is no law about their parent or guardian buying it and giving it to them. So if there is any problems with exposure to this content, shouldn’t we be looking at the role parents are playing in their children’s gaming?

  • Interestingly enough the Australian Council on Children and the Media’s argument for parents not knowing or having control over what their children view is based on a study done in 1985.

    That’s a study that is over 25 years old and completely irrelevant due to the changes in media, law, and classification over that time.

    I’m pretty sure that the people that are pro R18+ aren’t doing their homework well in this matter, otherwise the Australian Council on Children and the Media’s opinion would’ve been shut down and invalidated ages ago.

  • The Australian Law Reform Commission report is going to be influential. People who are concerned about anomalies in game classification should watch what the Commission is doing and provide it with persuasive (ie intelligent, well-informed and non-emo) submissions. If you are concerned about the regulation of online content/activity have your say … don’t waste the opportunity and don’t damage your credibility by ranting
    http://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/national-classification-review

  • The Australian government is soft. And when a dumb Christian comes in and says he is right, we know for sure, he is wrong. And whose stopping us from just downloading the games which are banned, or just importing them from the UK.

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