Why Government's Plan To Merge The Classification Review Board Isn't Disastrous

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."


    Nooooo I came to Kotaku to escape budget coverage! :P

      Oh... there is no escape from this budget, mate....

      *Shadow Warrior finds himself in a bare room with a locked door and the key hidden in code inside a copy of the budget books.*


      Last edited 13/05/14 4:13 pm

        Tonight I go to my happy place (my happy place is Dark Souls 1, just to put that into perspective)

          *Turns out I somehow got there first and swapped Dark Souls 1 with Too Human.*

          *Dons a top hat, long moustache and a cape.*


    Like with the rest of the APS cuts, what might seem like removing duplication or waste will likely wind up being the reverse. In this case, it's being reported that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Refugee Review Tribunal, Classification Review Board etc. are being amalgamated. These are all very different, and in some respects very complicated areas of law. It's completely unrealistic to expect the same people making rulings on a game classification to hear claims for asylum. If anything, this new body is going to wind up needing more staff.

    Last edited 13/05/14 3:12 pm

      The Classification Review Board doesn't issue classifications, they're the independent body that ensures the quality and accuracy of the actual Classification Board's work if it comes into question:

      "The Classification Review Board is an independent statutory body responsible for reviewing certain decisions of the Classification Board.

      The Classification Review Board is a different Board to the Classification Board. The Classification Review Board is a part-time Board who only meet to review decisions of the Classification as needed. The members of the Classification Review Board live in different parts of Australia and travel to Sydney to make review decisions."

      Also amalgamating handling these different reviews under one group doesn't mean that there's an expectation that people would be making judgments about refugees one day and then the same people would make judgments about video games. I'd expect they'd still employ specific people to sit on specific boards for specific purposes. There's likely a lot of stuff in the upper level of these organizations which is duplicated between them, and amalgamation would seek to replace those multiple duplicated parts with a single group of people that handle all the review boards. Not amalgamating the board members themselves, that would be crazy.

        Here's what I don't get, how in the world do either of the three of those Boards/Tribunals bear any resemblance to one another other than the fact they're probably run incredibly inefficiently? Instead of merging departments to cut costs why not slim down each individual Board/Tribunal to make them more efficient?

        Alternatively come up with processess and procedures that govern each of them that are less time consuming and more practical. While I know it's easy for me to criticize standing from the outside all of my involvements with government run institutions have shown that there's plenty of room for improvement but there's just no incentive to improve because there's no bottom line that they need to be held accountable for.

        That said the idea of a Classification Review Board seems absolutely redundant but I'm more concerned for the other Tribunals being amalgamated i.e. Refugee Review Tribunal etc.

          Same page: "The Convenor of the Classification Review Board is responsible for management and oversight of the Classification Review Board and its decision-making processes."

          I imagine that the other review boards have the same Convenor role. The idea that each board has to have a bunch of people involved in the logistics of making sure the review board functions is redundant, and one group could likely do that job for all the boards.

          I don't disagree that it would probably be more efficient so simply trim the review boards though.

          It's the over heads that cost. More offices more upper and middle management staff more resources in general. It's an easy way to save money. With out the hassle of reforming they way the work is done. And the stupid things like 1 letter head not 3 saving printing costs.

          Last edited 14/05/14 9:11 pm

    Sure, but a lot of what politicians do is good in theory, just turns out to be garbage in practice or completely perverted in the interest of no one else but the Government

    Last edited 13/05/14 3:31 pm

    Actually the Classification Review Board do issue classifications. You'll notice on the classification.gov.au website in the News section that recently the Hollywood movie 'Blended' had its rating changed from M to PG - this was an appeal by the film's distributor and was handled by the Review Board. That's all the Review Board does (99.9% of the time). Most of the time the appeals they do are at the request of distributors and very occasionally at the request of the Minister (Brandis), possibly because a state attorney-general asked him to (because they had been lobbied by Christian groups). But that's quite rare. In the case of 'Blended' the Classification Board classified it M and after the appeal the M was replaced with PG - meaning the Classification Review Board classified it PG using the same Guidelines, Act and Code as that used by the Classification Board. I would say that 99.999999999999% of the time, the CRB (let's start abbreviating it) handles appeals of classification decisions by the CB. Other than that the CRB might deal with an appeal for an "Ad Refused" decision by the CB, or they might work out whether someone or more likely some group has standing as a "person aggrieved" by a classification decision. The appeal (aka review) fee is $10,000. The approximate full cost of a review is $24,000.
    In conclusion - the Classification Review Board classifies films, games and publications in an appeal process. They're actually "issuing" classifications. Yes it's true. Just because they only classify when there is an appeal, and they meet rarely, and the item they're classifying is always already classified by the Classification Board, doesn't mean they're not classifying stuff or not issuing classifications. They might keep a rating the same, or lower it or increase it. Or change the consumer advice, or not change it. The way they classify is for the most part the same as the Classification Board except they also have the applicant's written and oral (giggle) submission, as well as the submissions of any interested parties, and the Classification Board's report in front of them. The Classification Review Board's decisions appear in the online database at the URL mentioned above (classification.gov.au). They release media releases and full reports of what they've done at the same URL.

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