Media Release

For release: July 22, 2011

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has cautiously welcomed the outcome today of the long-running R18+ computer game debate from the meeting of classification ministers in Adelaide.

“ACL was surprised that the issue was not deferred until the Australian Law Reform Commission completes its review of the National Classification Scheme, which includes examining the classification of games,” ACL’s spokesman Rob Ward said.

“ACL’s concern in this debate has always been to maintain the existing ceiling for games so that there is no possibility of a higher level of graphic violence and interactive sex legally available for sale and hire in Australia.

“The draft R18+ guidelines as originally proposed would have matched the R18+ guidelines for films. This was clearly never in the interests of the community, with the boundaries of the R18+ film guidelines slowly eroded to allow extreme violence, actual sex and simulated paedophilia in films.

“Although ACL awaits the final detail from the meeting, it appears that the existing ceiling for games has been maintained with a commitment to move the more extreme MA15+ games into a newly-created R18+ rating.

“With some tightening of the MA15+ category, the retention of the existing RC category and no liberalisation of the existing games market, the outcome today is a significant improvement from what had been previously put to ministers for their approval,” Mr Ward said.

“Despite the R18+ ratings for games issue seemingly resolved, there was still a lot of work to do to ensure children really would be protected from harmful games through effective enforcement mechanisms and by consistent application of the guidelines by classifiers.

“The assurance of ministers who backed the R18+ rating as a means to protect children needs to be matched by action to prevent children from accessing such games,” said Mr Ward.

“In this respect, ACL welcomes the agreement of ministers to ‘commence drafting amendments to their enforcement legislation to reflect the introduction of an R18 + category for computer games’.

“Concerns remain that the classification system over time allows higher levels of content to be pushed down into lower ratings. There is still some work to be done in ensuring classifiers apply ratings in a consistent manner, with the interests of assisting parents in mind,” he said.

ACL noted that the ALRC was examining questions around consistency in classification across media platforms and that it may recommend further reform when it reports in January 2012.