When the Federal Government passed R18+ legislation it set a January 1 deadline for all states and territories to pass its own individual R18+ legislation, to help regulate the sale of adult video games Australia-wide. Since then most states and territories have either passed, or are in the process of passing, that legislation. But now Queensland has become the first state to officially delay its decision regarding R18+ past the January 1 deadline. Yet, bizarrely, this will not halt the sale of R18+ video games in that state.
The reasons why Queensland delayed the legislation are unclear. It appears to simply be the end result of a busy parliament; a parliament that skimmed over the details.
On October 31 the bill was read, as standard, introduced by Jarrod Bleijie the Attorney-General for Queensland. A motion was passed to send the bill to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee. The next day Liberal MP Ray Stevens, the Manager of Government Business said the following in parliament:
I seek leave of the house... in accordance with standing orders 1361 that the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee report back to the house on the clarification... sorry classification of computer games and images and other legislation by the 7th of February 2013.
In short, the bill has been passed to a committee that won't be able to report back until well after the January 1 deadline, well after R18+ games can legally be sold in this country.
Interestingly, there was absolutely no discussion of the R18+ topic -- no disputes or debates. The legislation was simply sent to committee on October 31 and, on November 1, Ray Stevens confirmed that the committee would report back in February. There is no mention of the January 1 deadline, no mention of the fact that the R18+ rating will already have been put in place for over two months by the time the committee report back. It appears to be a decision made in complete ignorance of the deadline.
————- But how does this affect the R18+ rating in both Queensland and across Australia? We spoke to the Classification Board and the Department of Justice in Queensland and, surprisingly, this decision will not halt the sale of any R18+ rated games in Australia.
According to a Classification Board representative, R18+ games can still be sold in other states and, incredibly, the delayed legislation in Queensland won't actually halt sales of adult classified games in their own state.
"As far as Queensland goes, the legislation deals with the display and sale of games and I'm pretty sure that will still be the case. There just won't be any provisions for how the games will be displayed or sold," said the representative.
The representative did, however, inform us that he couldn't be 100% sure of precisely what would happen. We got in contact with the Department of Justice in Queensland to confirm, and this is where things get interesting.
Since Australia has previously had no R18+ rating for video games there is absolutely nothing in current legislation that prohibits the sale of R18+ games. Retailers are forbidden from selling 'unclassified' video games but, in this case, the games will be classified -- they'll be classified under an R18+ rating that simply isn't referenced in any legislation. This means that R18+ games can be sold, but there is literally no law to manage that process -- no details on punishment for sale to minors, no set rules on how the games can be displayed. Nothing.
"There's no reference to it," explained the spokesperson from Queensland's Department of Justice, "There's nothing in the legislation that prohibits it, because we've never had [an R18+ rating] before."
This puts Queensland in a precarious situation. By delaying its own legislation Queensland has practically guaranteed it will have zero provisions or restrictions on how R18+ video games will be sold in its state for up to three months. This means that, technically, retailers could sell adult games to children with no fear of punishment from the State.
And, incredibly, the situation seems to have arose with a complete lack of knowledge -- it has simply slipped through the cracks. We've heard rumblings that Campbell Newman's QLD government feels it hasn't had enough time to be briefed on the R18+ situation, a situation that has taken over ten years to resolve.
It is a nigh on perfect example of the madness of bureaucracy in action.