Yesterday ABC News reported that the Federal Government was planning to merge the Australian Classification Review Board with a number of other review board and tribunals as part of a $500 million cost cutting exercise. What initially seemed like a strange move by the Abbott government is actually almost perfectly in line with what the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended in its extensive Classification Review in 2012.
Terry Flew, who headed up the Classification Review, is far from concerned about the changes.
"We recommended abolishing the Classification Review Board in the ALRC report," explained Flew. "It is an amazingly costly way to ensure accountability for Classification Board decisions."
According to Terry Flew, having a seperate Classification Review Board is actually overkill when you consider the fact that very few games require a review after being classified by the Australian Classification Board.
"It’s a very expensive way to do things for a small amount of games," he says.
The Classification Review specifically mentions that the Board itself should be responsible for its own reviews. The idea being that if Industry was allowed to classify its own games and the Classification Board was responsible for games classified MA15+ and above, there would be no need for a review board.
The Classification of Media Content Act should provide that, in addition to classifying media content submitted for classification, the Classification Board is responsible for reviewing classification decisions, including its own, on application. Therefore the Classification Review Board would cease to operate.
Currently the situation is working in reverse. We are only a few steps closer towards industry involvement in classification, but we are in the process of streamlining the Classification Review Board. Now, explains Flew, we should be keeping an eye on whether or not the Federal Government follows through on his recommendation that the games industry play a greater role in classification.
"The real thing to look for is if the government chooses to follow through on increasing industry involvement in classification," he says. "That way the Classification Board’s role will change and they can do the reviewing themselves."