South Australia’s R18+ Laws Are A Complete Shambles

South Australia’s R18+ Laws Are A Complete Shambles

Since 2012, plain tobacco packaging laws forced stores to sell cigarettes absent of all branding in an attempt to dissuade young people from buying them.

A few Target stores in South Australia seemed to be doing the same thing with video games.

They believed they were following the letter of the law and — bizarrely — they might be right.

Above image via NeoGAF

The above picture was taken by NeoGAF user nephilimdj in Target Edwardstown, South Australia, in the Castle Plaza shopping centre.

As you can see, all R18+ games have been placed in plain packaging with the warning “you must be 18 years or over” to purchase.

This is a rare sight in South Australia, rare enough that it was a surprise to many when it was posted — even those living in South Australia. Rare enough that, when we saw it, we contacted Target Australia directly to ask what was going on. Was this a Target policy at the South Australian state level? Was this something they did across all stores? Or was this one rogue store acting on their own impulses.

Target Australia responded with this statement:

The photo you sent to us is not company standard. The store in question took itself to action the display featured in the photo you provided. Target Australia complies with the relevant legislation in each state on the display of 18+ games. We have tracked down the store and this has now been corrected.

In short: this was not company policy. Target Edwardstown had been contacted and was asked to correct the situation.

We decided to speak to the Target store in question to ask why the games section had been altered in this way.

We were informed that the store had been inserting plain packaging into its video games as seen in the image above. We were also told that the store would continue doing this, because it is asked of them by South Australian legislation. The store representative confirmed this wasn’t specific to video games — that Blu-rays and DVDs were being treated similarly.

We checked the legislation. In 2011 IGN Australia reported that plain packaging laws could be applied to video games in South Australia. The reality: this legislation had already been passed and put into place in January 2010 and was already applicable to video games.

Of course, in 2010 Australia didn’t have an R18+ rating for video games. Australia’s first R18+ game was released over three years later in 2013. When that happened it was assumed games would fall under the same state legislation in South Australia.

The applicable section reads as follows:

An occupier of premises (other than adult-only premises) at which computer games with a classification lower than R 18+ are sold must not display material for a computer game classified R 18+ at the premises—
(a) unless—
(i) the material is displayed in a different area (including, for example, in a different aisle or on a different shelving case, stand or table) from that in which material for other computer games is displayed; and
(ii) the area is marked as an area displaying material for computer games classified R 18+ by a notice complying with subsection (2) displayed in a prominent place near the area; and
(iii) the surface area of the material that is on display (for example, the cover of a casing containing the game, where that is on display) isnot more than 300 cm²; or

(b) unless, at all times while on display, the material bears no images or markings
other than—
(i) the name of the computer game in letters of 10 millimetres or less in height; and
(ii) the determined markings relevant to its classification

The key words in this section are “or” and “unless”.

South Australian legislation requires only that stores do one or the other: they either create a marked R18+ specific section or they cover R18+ games as seen in the above image.

As you might expect, most stores opt for the simpler R18+ specific section, like this Big W store:

Image via RedArtifice

Or this JB Hi-Fi:

But plenty of stores ignore the legislation completely:

Images via Jickle

We’ve been informed that a large number of stores in South Australia don’t bother following the guidelines at all.

But these few Target stores appear to be following both suggestions at once. They appear to be creating an R18+ specific section and obscuring the front covers.

And Target Australia has practically confirmed this to us over the phone, informing us that this was the result of a miscommunication between stores.

According to Target Australia the display shown in the image above is being dismantled as we speak.


  • I bet that that a-hole SA politician that blocked the R18+ rating all his miserable career has family that work in this store

    • I used to think WA was bad, but SA have a lot to answer for. The men you’re after are either Michael Atkinson, the SA Attorney-General who fought with such ferver against R18+, or Super Right-Wing Christian Man (aka Corey Bernadi), the South Australian Senator who equates being gay with buggering a dog, wants the taxpayer to fund religious education.

      • I’m assuming its Atkinson he’s referring to. He was the bigger roadblock of the two.

    • It was the old attorney general, Michael Atkinson, who blocked the R rating for so long.

      But this particular bit of stupidity around the display of R rated games and films is actually the doing of the hilariously misnamed Family First party, although obviously it needed the state Labor government to pass the legislation.

      • We can blame Atkinson, but we can also blame Edwardstown Target. After all, according to Hans Kelsen’s Reine Rechtslehre law cannot be law unless it is effective. A law that is ignored by most people and not enforced is effectively no law at all. If the evidence is that many stores do not comply with this law then Edwardstown Target is effectively digging not only its own grave but is dragging the other stores down with it 🙂

        • That Simpsons episode where Apu does lots of grand romantic gestures and all the guys hunt him down for it because they look bad by comparison comes to mind!

  • @markserrels the 2 paragraphs just below the target logo have bit of duplication in em.

    edit: never wanted to be that guy, but here we are.

    edit #2: just reading the actual legislation in question & found this. s 62(1a):
    A person must not sell or deliver to a minor a computer game classified R 18+ unless
    the person is a parent or guardian of the minor.
    Maximum penalty: $5 000

    pretty sure the commonwealth legislation (which overrides any state legislation) says you cant sell, give, or allow a minor to access R18+ stuff, regardless of your status as a guardian.

    • Point of Order: Cth Legislation isn’t superior to State Legislation. Constitutionally speaking, the States have more power. Federal Legislation is only superior when the states have yielded this power (like the Australian Consumer Law). That’s why WA are essentially an entity onto themselves, because they never give up anything!

      The Courts, however, work this way (High Court, Federal Court are superior to State County, Magistrates Courts) – common law and precedent set by the higher court must be followed by the lower courts.

      • Actual Point of Order: Cth Legislation is indeed ‘superior’ to State Legislation. Whenever there is inconsistency, Cth legislation prevails and the state law is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency: s109 of the Constitution –

        States typically do have more extensive powers of legislation however, as they retain the ability to legislate in relation to any matters not specifically provided for under the Constitution. In other words, the Cth can only legislate in relation to matters spelt out under the constitution, the states deal with anything left over: ss51-60 of the Constitution. As you say, the Cth can legislate in relation to matters outside those listed where the states pass legislation giving effect to the Cth code.

        Source: The constitution:

        (I’m a barrister)

      • Fully prepared to be proven wrong about this, but as i understand it, based on s 109 of the Constitution:

        When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.

        so if the federal level says you cant do something & a state law says you can, the state law is rendered invalid & the federal law is what applies.

        so if the federal classification act says R18+ material is restricted to persons over 18 (distinct from the wording of the MA15+ category, which explicitly provides an exception for being in the company of a parent or guardian) and the SA legislation says that R18 stuff can be given to a kid by a parent / guardian, then the federal law overrules the state one.

        • Yes, you’re right (refer my other response, above), my point was philosophical rather than practical, referring to the breadth of powers the State has, so I’m happy to yield to the Cth Legislation on this topic 😛

  • Target TTP also do both, but is it considered separate if its one part of the same shelving unit as other games or does it need to be on a separate shelving unit and not just further across?

  • I am actually in favour of this, actually – we hear it too often that parents go out & buy R18+ games for their kids without thinking about the rating at all. This policy would make them realise what they’re buying.

    • It’s not for kids. It’s not for kids. Don’t believe them, it’s not for kids.

  • I think at the end of the day parents need to read the fucking rating on the box and not buy a R rated game for their 14yr old. Its that simple.

    • That’s wayyyy tooo hard. We should just start a petition demanding a retailer take it off their shelves, so much easier that way…ffs

  • To be fair, I think that it is rather effective. Those people old enough to legally make the purchase will likely know what they are after long before walking into the shop, the product being visible for casual browsing simply not factoring into their choice to buy it.
    The 14yo child on the other hand going “mum buy me this game” will have a much more difficult time floating it past their parents when it has “R18+ DEFINITELY NOT FOR YOUNG CHILDREN” in huge letters which reminds me of the JB review on GTA5 not for kids, not for kids, seriously don’t believe them this isn’t for kids.

    Again though, the laws existing are a different beast entirely from the laws being enforced. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to believe that a lot of employees of stores selling R18 games couldn’t give two shits about the laws surrounding the sale, only that the sale is made. Not true of all employees, I have had conversations with many folks that do indeed adhere to the laws, even if it is only to flex their legal muscle to move groups of 13yo kids out of the store because they know they have no intention of buying anything.

    Tobacco laws are different, they are actively enforced and stores audited, I don’t believe that video games are there yet.

    • I’ve always hated going into EB and having to browse through the DS/Wii games with Euro style covers or replacement covers that just have the title in plain text on the spine rather than a logo like most of the local releases would have. Makes it so much harder to search through.

    • Its a load of shit. Games should have ratings but plain packaging? Parents should buy their kids GTA if their children are mentally sound its not going to change them. We all grew up playing vice city and the like, beating up hookers and running over pill symbols all the while saying outloud “i will NEVER do this, this is crazy” its complete rubbish protecting children from violence, if you’re over 10-12 years old as long as your mentally healthy its FINE. Its the 17 year olds that get their first violent game that end up weird, obsessed when they should be out socializing.

      • Well, a parent is obliged to follow certain laws in this country, but they are *expected* to be exercising due diligence over what exactly their children are subjected to. It’s societal, rather than something written in stone.

        I think GTA – and a complicit games media/industry – have always wanted it both ways. Its own niche where it can be the biggest fish in the ‘mature interactive entertainment’ pond; but still marketed and available to the widest possible audience.

        As you say, there’s always going to be mums and dads or relatives who are going to enable such a game to fall into a 10-12 year old’s hands.

        As if that’s supposed to be a fucking accident.

      • That’s a decision for the parents to make. There’s nothing stopping you picking up (plain-packaged or not) GTA for your kid. However, your kid is not allowed to buy it from the store themselves, which is as it should be.
        The problem is, stupid parents don’t think and don’t know. The plain packaging would make it absolutely clear to them without having to think, and it doing so they may learn something.

        • They should have to think, they should have an interest and it shouldn’t be censored. Its a cover, it actually offends me that this is being justified as an okay thing. I dont think violence is something all young people can rationalize and understand in a media format but its a part of life. Knowing that bad things happen in this world is a fundamental and necessary part of becoming an adult, it might just be a game cover but it says a lot about society that we need the quick convenience of “this is bad”

          • I’m on your side with that, believe it or not.
            Parents should have to think. The fact that the government thinks it has to ‘nanny’ us is backwards and offensive. The big problem is that to a certain degree and with a certain subset of people they are also right.
            Just because parents should think, doesn’t mean they do. And while the kids will most likely be able to handle it with no issue, it should be up to parents to make that decision.

            It comes down to this: It’s up to the parents, but the parents are oblivious. Therefore we need to educate the parents. Plain packaging is a very obvious way to show these parents something they wouldn’t otherwise be considering.

            Then again, these same parents aren’t thinking so they’ll probably just take it for granted that it’s not for kids and they’re still not learning anything. In short, I’m neither for nor against plain packaging, but I’m definitely against stupid parents.

  • I bought Manhunt 2 Wii Edition (PAL/UK packaging) from an independent store in Victoria, circa 2011, 2012.

    Now, at the time, who was in the wrong? The store for selling something that clearly wasn’t classified to be sold in this country, or me for buying it? Keep in mind this was well before R18+ was introduced.

    Now for the kicker, at the time which states and territories deemed that it was illegal for simply owning the unclassified game?

    I raise the above because you can’t single out one state’s interpretation/administering of the R18+ laws without talking about the fringe cases that now exist – Steam is the most bleeding obvious case here. But also the nuances of each and every other state/territory and how the stores apply the laws within their walls.

    Playstation Network has also apparently been able to circumvent the laws and get games on its AU storefront without a rating first, I think? Or was that he Xbox One store? Both still have games delayed because of rating snafus. The Wii U eshop was supposed to receive a wellspring of content since Australia signed up to the IARC agreements, or so I thought.

    We got OctoDad on there out of the blue (heh) without rhyme or reason, with no announcement or media reporting on it either. Very odd.

    If devs simply are not aware of IARC, 2016 is almost to April, than that’s a paddlin’ surely. Who’s to blame?

    But back to brick and mortar stores, It all comes back to Australian games retail as a whole. There’s the law, and then there’s how the people working under that law choose to operate.

    • Now, at the time, who was in the wrong? The store for selling something that clearly wasn’t classified to be sold in this country, or me for buying it? Keep in mind this was well before R18+ was introduced.It’d be the store, wouldn’t it? Since it’s illegal to sell unclassified material. Whereas if you bought it from a UK store, then it’d be you in the bad for importing unclassified material.

      Now for the kicker, at the time which states and territories deemed that it was illegal for simply owning the unclassified game?Wait when did this happen? I thought it was only WA where it was illegal to possess unclassified material.

      Edit: Actually, unsure if there’s a distinction between unclassified and Refused Classification. Hmm.

      • Cheers.

        Although the actual crime committed here is the port of Manhunt 2. It’s buggy and crash-happy. Oh my lord the crashes.

  • I wonder if the fact that the majority of the shoppers at castle plaza are, to be blunt, crotchety old people has anything to do with it. Maybe got some complaints or some such.

  • Hey, as long as the standard packaging is behind that plain paper, then I am fine with this. Considering I know what games I want before I even get to the store, the cover only matters to me for being on my shelf.
    We hear so many stories of parents buying games without even considering the actual rating that this would be a great way to curb that and get rid of that stigma. Heck, that was the main excuse people were making against the introduction of the R18+ rating in games.

    • I think the kind of parents you’re talking about wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a plain cover with a warning anyway. If you’re not interested in what your child is buying to begin with how would a white cover with an r rating change that? Those are the kinds of parents that dont have an interest in their kids to begin with. Im an adult and I really dont appreciate the complacency of “as long as da normi cova is there” its complete rubbish! I want the experience of seeing it in the store and I want that for others. What a backwards step and no wonder they got told to change it back.

  • I think it’s a great idea, but I’d like to see it taken one step further. Each plain package must feature a written description of the image featured on the actual cover. “Helmeted white male in body armour carries assault rifle while walking away from a big explosion…” That sort of thing.

    • But how would you tell them apart if they all had the same description? 😛
      Though if you were going to go that far, perhaps an explanation for the rating beyond the one or two word descriptors currently used.

  • I actually think it’s a cheap, effective way to prevent the sale of R18 games to minors.

  • Seriously, that headline.
    I don’t see how it’s a shambles. The laws are pretty clear. Perhaps not policed, and perhaps one store made an extreme misinterpretation. But that headline is clickbait, pure and simple. I thought we’d be above that here.

  • I keep forgetting about the R section at JB – Every time I go to get a new game im in awe that they dont have it on the shelf… Until i wander around for a while and find the R 18 section with EVERYTHING any gamer is interested in lol

    Seriously need to look at the laws because it seems anything with a bit of violence is R 18 these days!

  • Sorry @bjl not entirely correct. Cth also takes precedence where the relevant laws fall within one of the enumerated heads of power of section 51 of the constitution (eg defence, external affairs and so on)

  • Can’t help but feel partly responsible about this when I sent an angry email to Michael Atkinson bemoaning the fact I could walk into a jb store and purchase Cannibal Holocaust on DVD but I couldn’t legally buy Mortal Kombat 9 which didn’t have fetus eating in it yet the former did. Weeks later this happened…

  • The only reason I can think that they went with option 2 is the surface area clause in option 1. They may have misinterpreted it to mean the total material on display, not the material per item which is what the law intends. As long as its surface area (per material) is below 300cm² it’s fine. Standard disc cases that almost every game comes in these days, including the ones pictured, are 249cm² in surface area. It’s legal in South Australia to display the covers for these games, just not giant posters advertising them.

    It’s still a silly law, but what Target is doing there isn’t a requirement to comply with that law.

  • Jesus, don’t do that, i thought that SA were going to ban R18 games but honestly, who cares if some games are in plain cases?

    Talk about R18… Doom has just been classified as R18.

    • Not surprising that Doom is R18. The trailer for Doom so far is so fucking brutal lol.

      • Not surprised either, it’s rated at what it needs to be but i thought it might have skirted a bit close to the RC valley, the classification board aren’t the most consistent.

        • But the classification board quite consistent in what causes RC. Usually drug as reward related.

  • I gotta admit…this type of extremity is sometimes needed. The more this particular photo floods the news feeds of parents and other forms of media, the more eyes will open to the less eye popping warnings. It’s astonishing…I recall lining up at EB games way back when GTAV first came out. There was a middle aged lady in the line in front of me, purchasing GTAV. Contemplated asking her if she knew what she was buying…contemplated for a good 5 minutes actually because the two cashiers just so happen to get two separate customers trading in 20+ games each…and that shit takes forever. I did end up saying ‘excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude but are you buying that for someone under 18? It’s got an R18 label’. She seemed startled responding telling me it was for her husband but she didn’t notice the rating.

    People that don’t play video games don’t realise they have ratings…

  • This is my local store, I just assumed that this was a fairly standard practice TBH.
    I remember that the last R+18 game that I bought here that did not have this cover was GTA5 (PS4). It may have been an effort to counter complaining parents as well as legislation. The shelf is located right at the back, facing the wall. Its almost like they don’t want it to exist.

  • So whats next plain packaging for R rated movies and adult films?
    Makes browsing difficult, what if an adult was looking at these games and didn’t actually know any of them how would said consumer know which to buy?

  • I don’t understand the issue. Target contacting the store in question “correcting the issue”, it’s not an issue or anything to be ashamed of, but I guess they’re still sore over the whole GTA5 bullshit.

    I’m quite OK with cover replacement on the shelves. When I’m store browsing with my daughters (6-8), some of the R covers are a little graphic – Resident Evil Revs2 comes to mind, Zombie Army isn’t hot either. Much like a smoker knows what they want in plain packaging, I know what game I’m after without the cover displayed. Hell, I’d even be happy with a simple list showing what’s in store and the price to save walking around, looking at stock, but that’s me….

  • I work at target in SA in the entertainment department, its standard practice to do one or the other. either cover the games or have an R18+ area, in the store i work at we just cover them. It is also enforced internally by target when stores are audited for compliance with standards and other stuff. Cant say i agree with the title of this article, nothing is in shambles about the South Australian R18+ classifications its standard practice that add’s little to no inconvenience when shopping.

    • Making and inserting/taking out the liners for every case seems like a cumulatively excessive waste of time for workers, I have to say. Stick with “shambles”.

      • If that was the case they would just use a different method, but at the end of the day it really adds no more noticeable time to processing stock then adding anti-theft devices to other products.

  • For everyone saying “I don’t see any issue”
    There IS QUITE CLEARLY AN ISSUE with the second last pic
    … Ryse for $69??? You’d gotta be bonkers to pay that much

  • Everyone always overlooks one important factor in regards to classifying media –

    Where is the science to PROVE that any type of media actually has a negative impact on kids? There is no conclusive evidence. All reputable studies find the same thing – a correlation. Not causation. Thus I am inclined to say that media requring classification in the first place is based on nothing more than societies assumptions. Subjective morality and assumptions are NOT grounds for legislation. It’s time people faced reality and stopped assuming. It’s a complete waste of time and money, both to taxpayers to fund the ACB and for publishers to have products classified.

    In addition, history has shown that the ACB is one of the most redundant and irrelevant government bodies in the country. They are inconsistent, hypocritical and exist purely because people continue to make baseless assumptions about the need for , edia to be classified in the first place. These laws in SA are laughable and make the state look even more stupid than it already does. Glad I haven’t lived there for 16 years now. Got out just before the local economy went down the pisser.

    If I were a publisher I wouldn’t be shipping games or films to stores that use plain packaging. It prevents logos and intellectual property from being displayed, as well as covers designed to create sales and inform consumers about the product. Highly dubious IMO.

    As stated by someome else, these laws are also inconsistent with federsl law, thus bloody invalid as I understand. What’s the point of a national framewoek for classification and needing a unanimous vote to change it if states like SA/WA happily go about doing what they please? They’re happy to place MORE restrictions on citizens without a unanimous federal vote, but liberalising laws REQUIRES a unanimous vote by all states, which is what blocked R ratimg for so long. Hypocrites. Undemocratic.

    All this is irrelevant though on account of the fact nobody gives a shit about these laws in the digital age. They mean nothing and we can all DL our games via steam, a US PSN or XBL acc for half the price. People don’t even need to wprry about Customs anymore (not that Customs gave a shit anyway, from experience).

  • Anyone familiar with castle plaza will tell you: it’s more likely the clerk confused ciggarettes with video games than a purposeful action. Edwardstown and the law hardly go hand in hand.

  • Meh. Target stopped selling GTA V due to gross misinformation and lack of education or perspective and we were told to shut up and just pretend the ideals they were applying were appropriate. Why don’t we just do that again?

  • As long as we don’t start taxing games at 95%, I don’t really care. Though it isnt the best way to go

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