Senate debates

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


R18+ Games Classification

8:50 pm

Photo of Kate LundyKate Lundy (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to advocate for the introduction of an R18+ games classification to Australia in my capacity as senator for the ACT. This is not a decision to be made by the government; rather, it is a decision that requires agreement among the federal and state attorneys-general from around the nation. I urge them to support the introduction of this games classification for three key reasons. Firstly, it is worth noting that we already have an R18+ classification for films. This classification is important as it gives parents clear guidance on what is appropriate for their children and teenagers. As a parent, I know there is peace of mind, when selecting films for my family’s enjoyment, in knowing that there is a robust classification system. The classification system informs my choices and helps me assess suitability and age appropriateness for my children. The absence of an R18+ computer games classification creates something of a grey area for parents. There is limited guidance for parents or young people, creating a risk where games are purchased that they are not suitable.

Computer games targeted specifically at adults are often moved into the Australian MA15 games classification, theoretically with some edits, and there is concern that young people—that is, under 18s—may be able to circumvent these modifications, gaining access to content which is not necessarily age appropriate. Currently retail store sales people have to advise parents that some MA15+ games are not suitable for under 18s, when it should be the classification system providing clear guidelines for parents as to what material is suitable for children and what material is not. It is my view that if such games were able to be classified R18+ in the first instance, then parents would have greater peace of mind that the games rated MA15 their children are playing are in fact age appropriate. Considering 95 per cent of children under 15 and 84 per cent of teenagers and adults between 16 and 25 years play computer and video games at some point, it is important that we ensure our games classification system is up to speed with other entertainment such as films and with other countries.

Secondly, creating an R18+ classification for computer games is an opportunity to catch up with the rest of the world. This is a significant issue for this industry sector. We have a booming games sector in Australia and a growing market. For example, in 2008 we know 88 per cent of Australian households had a device for playing computer games and the Australian computer games industry is growing at an annualised rate of more than 15 per cent. The average age of people who play computer games is 30, illustrating the strength of the adult game market, with the sector’s turnover standing at over $1.3 billion in 2007, according to the Bond University report entitled Interactive Australia 2009.

Both the United States and United Kingdom have an R18+ games classification, which means games developers incur additional costs to modify their products for the local market to meet our MA15 classification. With many games originally developed for an adult audience, this represents an additional burden for our Australian games sector. As a result, many of these games are simply banned for sale or distribution in Australia and give rise to the temptation of overseas purchase or, even worse, illicit distribution in Australia. Given this sector is a rapidly growing export oriented part of our economy, it is important to remove unnecessary impediments to Australian games development companies, helping them to be globally competitive.

Finally, I have observed a groundswell of public support for the introduction of an R18+ games classification. It is coming from a diverse range of people, with support from parents and parental groups, ICT, telecommunications and related sector organisations as well as the expected gamer communities and computer games industry organisations. The Bond University research paper Interactive Australia 2009 also found that 91 per cent of Australians—gamers and non-gamers alike—support the introduction of an R18+ games classification.

On 14 December 2009, the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Brendan O’Connor MP, released the discussion paper ‘Should the Australian National Classification Scheme include an R18+ classification category for computer games?’ According to the department’s website, the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department has received almost 60,000 submissions via email, fax and post, as well as from the retailer EB Games and from the organisation Grow Up Australia. About 98 per cent of these submissions were in support of the introduction of an R18+ games classification. The submissions and the consultation report can be found on the Attorney-General’s website under the games classification link.

One such supporter is in fact the Attorney-General of the ACT, Minister Simon Corbell, who will, by virtue of his position, be part of the decision-making process. He has placed his view on the public record and supports the introduction of an R18+ games classification, and I quote:

The ACT supports the introduction of an R18+ classification. This classification would ensure that games with adult content are sold only to adults and that the purchasers are fully aware of the content of the games. There is evidence that many people are purchasing games from overseas and over the internet, and because the games are not classified, they may have little or no information to enable them to determine whether this is something they truly want to view or use.

Madam Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to table a document. Whilst technically it does not conform to the format required by the Senate, it constitutes a petition, and states:

By signing this petition you believe that Australia should have an R18+ games classification for PC & video games.

Leave granted.

In eight weeks 89,210 people from all over Australia signed the document in support of an R18+ games classification, and this number has been verified in an independent audit. This is one of the largest petitions submitted to the Australian Senate in the past 15 years, and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Roland Kulen from PALGN and Robert Lukic from GAME for their hard work in coordinating this effort, as well as the many advocates for an R18+ games classification throughout Australia.