Australia has had a reckoning over the last couple of weeks, with Canberra centering the national conversation squarely on the treatment of women in Parliament House and around the country. But in an interview on Australian breakfast television, one of Australia’s most senior ministers drew Grand Theft Auto into the conversation.
The interview took place on Channel 9’s Today Show early Friday morning, as part of a segment featuring Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and the Federal Deputy Opposition Leader, Richard Marles. The majority of the interview was about the political situation in Canberra, and whether the Prime Minister had been politically damaged from the news of recent weeks.
Minister Dutton was quizzed about potential cabinet reshuffles and the environment in Canberra. The minister then spoke about his own personal situation.
“As a father of a 19 year old daughter and teenage boys, it horrifies me the stories you hear. And it’s not uncommon: young girls, hand up a skirt, on a breast etc, it’s completely unacceptable behaviour. For teenage boys, it’s incumbent on parents first and foremost, to make sure that we are teaching them the right values, the respect they need to have towards women.”
That’s all fairly straightforward. Where things veered off was when Minister Dutton said “the involvement of social media” and “the unfiltered content that teenage boys” should be as central to the debate of recent weeks.
“I think what we should demand is the same laws that apply in real life apply online,” the minister said. “So if you’re flicking through TikTok videos and there is content on there that is unfiltered, going into the minds of young impressionable boys and girls, then we need to think about what happens there.”
Dutton then specifically called out Grand Theft Auto, and said Australia needed to have a “broader conversation” about the societal impacts of games like Grand Theft Auto:
“If you’re playing Grand Theft Auto, as a 13 year old boy, and lets of teenage boys will do, you can go — in that game, not just, you know, drive cars recklessly, you can go for a lap dance, you can go and shoot police,” Minister Dutton said. “And so we need to have a broader conversation about the influences on those young boys, both in a family setting and a societal setting and particularly online.”
There was no explicit link drawn, or follow-up from the minister’s mention of Grand Theft Auto. The deputy opposition leader also didn’t challenge the mention, either. But one of the country’s strongest advocates for video games, Labor’s Tim Watts, wasn’t prepared to let it slide:
Dutton is smashing the distraction button.— Tim Watts MP (@TimWattsMP) March 25, 2021
Apparently Tiktok and video games are to blame for the disgusting behaviour towards women we’ve seen coming from Parliament House over the past month. pic.twitter.com/9q66fbiLIL
He also noted that a review into Australia’s classification laws — which dictates what content is and isn’t available to Australians — had been completed last year, and a report of the review has been sitting on Communications Minister Paul Fletcher’s desk for almost a full year.
The minister’s point isn’t a new one. Politicians regularly, and frequently, question the potential link between violent video games and violent behaviour in real life. That question has been asked since the ’90s, when Congress hauled the makers of games like Night Trap and Mortal Kombat in for hearings.
As for the science, however, researchers have been investigating the link between video games and violence for decades. If the minister would like to have a national conversation, these 24 studies showing there was no link between video games and violence might be a good place to start.
If you want to review the interview in full, it’s in the video carousel on the Today’s website here.
Update: Media Watch has also posted the segment directly on Twitter:
Here's the footage:— Media Watch (@ABCmediawatch) March 26, 2021
"If you’re playing Grand Theft Auto, as a 13 year old boy … in that game, not just, you know, drive cars recklessly, you can go for a lap dance, you can go and shoot police …” #MediaWatch pic.twitter.com/rfIIS35LyG