Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, has sought to distance the government’s push for an R18+ classification for video games from the mass violence in Norway at the weekend.
Speaking on ABC television, O’Connor said the decision last week of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to endorse the idea of an R18+ classification for video games would ensure that violent content was not viewed by minors.
“At the moment the most popular adult themed games that are played only lawfully by adults around the world are played by 15 year-olds here," he said. "That will change as a result of the introduction of the R18 [classification].”
“And we'll still keep out violent, very violent, sexually violent games. They'll be prohibited from access lawfully in this country."
O’Connor said that despite the car bombings and mass shooting in Norway the government would not seek to “close down” film or its efforts to properly classify games.
“I think [the events] really points to of course a person who clearly there's something wrong with this person to sort of cause such devastation in Norway,” he said.
“But I'm not sure that the argument goes that as a result of watching a game you turn into that type of person. I think there's something clearly intrinsically wrong with him.”
The decision by the state Attorneys-General — with the exception of NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, who abstained — has been many months in the coming and has been accompanied by a concerted campaign by the government to achieve a positive outcome.
In March draft guidelines (PDF) were distributed to State and Territory Classification Ministers to “assist in their decision making”, according to O’Connor, ahead of last week’s Standing Committee meeting.
The same month O’Connor argued that as only developed country without such a video game rating Australia was “becoming the laughing stock of the developed world” for its lack of an adult rating for computer entertainment.
Following the tabling of draft guidelines for the classification of computer games at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General in Wellington in early March, O’Connor urged state attorneys-general to progress the issue which had been on the table for many years.
“When making their decision, I urge state and territory governments to consider the value of an adults-only rating in helping to protect children from unsuitable content as well as the strong public support for this move,” he said.
Late last year O’Connor released a comparison of Australian and international games’ ratings, which support the government's argument that Australian minors are being exposed to video game content which would otherwise be restricted to adults.
The push for an R18+ classification for games has also run alongside a wider process of overhauling Australia’s classification system, which last week prompted the Pirate Party Australia (PPA) to argue that the existing system is “fundamentally broken.”
In its submission to the Australian Law Reform Committee (ALRC) National Classification Scheme review, PPA called for the introduction of a European PEGI-style or American ESRB-style model of voluntary classification for media and the abolition of the Refused Classification category.
“The sheer speed that media is being created and distributed makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to manage in a proper and timely manner,” the submission reads.
Some 500 gamers hit also dressed as zombies to raise awareness about the lack of an R18+ rating for video games in Australia.
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