Posted on 22. Nov, 2012 in Speeches

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Enforcement) Amendment Bill 2012. There are a number of provisions in this bill, but my contribution will deal with the introduction of a new R 18+ classification for computer games.

The introduction of this classification is the result of an agreement made by the Standing Committee of Attorneys‑General. Earlier this year the federal Parliament passed the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012. The commonwealth bill received royal assent on 6 July 2012. This bill before us follows the lead of the federal government.

Some might find it surprising that our Attorney‑General would introduce a new R 18+ classification. I risk defending him among his conservative constituencies by saying that he obviously found the national momentum too great to resist. Along with the introduction of the R 18+ classification, the current top classification of MA 15+ will become more restrictive in what it covers. Without this bill and the new R 18+ classification, some computer games, including new editions of existing games, would have become illegal in Victoria. Such games include Grand Theft Auto, and I will say something about that in a moment.

The term ‘computer game’ is a bit of a misnomer. Rather than a gamer being hunched over a computer, they are more likely to use a game console such as an Xbox or a PlayStation connected to a big screen such as a television. This is worth thinking about, because it means that the computer game is well and truly on display in the home. Parents should think about situations in which older members of the family are playing games such as Grand Theft Auto in front of children.

The commonwealth has released new guidelines for the classification of computer games. The accompanying document sets out a number of principles, and these include:

(a)    adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;

(b)   minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them …

Bearing in mind these principles, it is ironic that it has been easier to get away with scenes of violence than it has been with those of a sexual nature. It is very much a case of make war not love. Those who have viewed Grand Theft Auto will understand what I mean. Grand Theft Auto includes drink driving and much killing, including the shooting of police officers and the running over of innocent bystanders. Until now this game has had an MA 15+ rating, which is hard to understand unless one explains it as being about the unavailability of an R 18+ classification. Grand Theft Auto V is now due for release. Assuming it maintains its level of gratuitous violence, I would hope that Grand Theft Auto will attract that R 18+ classification.

The point I want to finish on is that the move at a national level in regard to the classification of computer games recognises the reality we are faced with. Without this legislation people would still access illegal games, either from overseas or by obtaining pirated copies online. We are much better off regulating this industry than criminalising what can reasonably be viewed by adults. At the same time this will allow the authorities to concentrate on that which should not be viewed under any circumstances, including abhorrent material such as child pornography.


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