BlogAustralian Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Jason Clare has announced that an R18+ category for games has finally been passed by the Australian senate. This means that the draft is now made law, and from January 1 2013 (subject to the states re-working their own respective legislation) games will be able to be rated for adults only.
The government had on its agenda a review of the classification system in Australia, which since inception has only gone up to MA15+ (legally restricted to 15 years and over) for games, while film had an R18+ option for adults only. This has led to a small group of titles being rated RC (Refused Classification) effectively banning their sale and hire country-wide. A greater number of titles have had to be cut down to fit into an MA15+ rating, and many have argued a lot of the titles that were classified as such should not be available to 15-year olds. See my previous blog entry here for more information on specific titles.
The government sought public submissions, which 98% of the 58,437 submissions received were in support of the change. The legislation has managed to pass the senate tonight without needing to be modified for resubmission and the government has already allocated $526,000 over four years in the recent budget for compliance inspections to business that sell and loan games1.
The government has already advised that any title that has been classified already (including those banned) would need to be re-submitted for a rating change to be considered, therefore every existing decision is maintained. The same title cannot be re-submitted (as it has already been classified), however it would not take much to submit a 'new edition' - by adding in DLC for example a publisher could 'repackage' a title and submit it to be classified under the new guidelines.
It's also worthy to remember each state and territory can review their own classification law while they update to the new R18+ rating. South Australia, for example, seems to be moving to change MA15+ to also be adult's only, essentially making it the same as R18+2. While these sorts of strange choices will no doubt confuse people if they move interstate, it's all part of being a federal nation made up of smaller areas with their own governments. Given the states and territories have agreed in principal to allow an R18+ rating it's highly unlikely that they will make any adverse decisions for adults.
While the new decision does not allow for 'true' freedom (R18+ does not accomodate a number of things, including essentially every sexual fetish, sexual violence, or 'ultra-strong' violence to name a few) this is a huge step forward. When Australia wrote up the classification legislation it did not consider 'adult' videogames; the days of the NES and SNES did not warrant it. Thankfully (albeit very late) we have brought our legislation in line with the times, and the changing face of screen media. This change brings the concept of adults being able to consume what they want and the notion of protecting our youth to a far more balanced scenario. Hopefully now publishers won't have to fear their titles that have drugs, violence or sex involved and can get on with distributing titles to those that want to play them (and are of age!).