Some of EFA’s campaigns, such as fighting against the Internet Filter and pushing for a R18 rating for video games, can be seen as long-term goals. We’ve been fighting them for a number of years and sometimes it can be difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how hard we try or how logical our arguments seem to be.
Today we’ve made a significant step towards one of those goals, the government has announced in-principle support for introducing a R18 rating on video games; this means that its introduction is now all but certain and we could see it being implemented within months.
Part of the why it has taken so long is the result of how difficult it is for changes to censorship laws to be conducted inside Australia. The decisions ultimately come down to the Attorney Generals of each state and territories who must all agree unanimously. Decisions such as these are typically made at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting (SCAG) which only occurs three times a year. As you’d know, the Attorney General in each state is appointed by the majority government of that state. As a result, the list of active Attorney Generals is in a constant state of flux as each state and territory changes government in elections.
Historically we’ve have had some Attorney Generals in strong support of the reforms and others in strong opposition, but in many cases those in support have lost office before they’ve convinced their counterparts in the other states. Getting all our ducks in a row, as it were, was a seemingly impossible task.
So what’s changed? The Gillard government has come out in strong support of the introduction of the R18+ rating essentially saying that they’d planned to go ahead regardless of what the state Attorney Generals thought. Indeed there hasn’t been unanimous support this time around either with New South Wales failing to fully commit claiming they haven’t had enough time to form a viewpoint (despite the fact this topic has been out in public debate for years).
Consequently new games rated as R18+ by the Australian Classification Board will be banned under current New South Wales law, but these changes make it possible for that state to address the law in their own time, rather than holding back the rest of Australia.
South Australia have also put forth an interesting position where they support the R18 rating but also wish to eliminate the MA15+ rating for video games entirely within their state and place any games currently falling within its guidelines inside the new R18 rating. They claim the reason for this is so that parents have a clearer understanding that R18 means ‘not suitable for children’ and that parents are currently confused by the current MA15+ classification. The important thing to note is that, like New South Wales, these changes only have effect within South Australia.
Regardless of the positions of these two states this decision allows their debate to be restricted to their individual state borders and not hold back the reforms for the rest of Australia. It will also make it easier for people within those states to lobby more effectively.
There is, however, room to be cautious as the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has published a press release cautiously welcoming the decision. This will come as a surprise to those who have been following the debate as they have traditionally been one of the largest groups opposed to these reforms (despite the fact their view are shared by only a fraction of Australians).
The ACL feels that rather than allowing previously banned games to be available under the R18 banner, they will remain in the Refused Classification bracket and remain illegal to be sold. Is this going to be the case? We’ll have to wait and see how exactly it’s implemented, but make no mistake, we’ve taken a very positive step today.
Ultimately the thanks for the introduction of the R18 rating fall to one particular group of individuals: you. The only reason that these reforms have been made possible is that people, just like you, have tirelessly campaigned in the face of seemingly impossible odds. It is this campaigning that has made the Gillard Government push forward and ultimately secure the commitment of the individual Attorney Generals.
Congratulations all, you did it.