Media Release

The push to legalise interactive gratuitous violence in video games has been spun as a child protection measure despite the advice of every Children’s Commissioner in Australia.

Australian Christian Lobby Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said it was wrong for the Federal Government and the gaming industry to claim that introducing an R18+ rating was in the best interests of children when it was exactly the opposite. He also took issue with the Government’s selective use of polling to claim public support.

“It is unbelievable to see this debate being twisted by spin to such an extent that having an R18+ classification is now being promoted as something that will benefit children. How does introducing new violent media into Australia benefit children especially when we know that these games will inevitably find their way into the hands of children?” Mr Shelton said.

“And if this is so good for children why have the Children’s Commissioners and Guardians from every State and Territory in Australia opposed the move and stated in their submission that the introduction of an R18+ classification would ‘adversely impact on the safety and wellbeing of children and young people’?

“Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor’s statement that dozens of games which have been restricted to adults overseas have been allowed into the MA15+ rating here is an admission that the system he is in charge of is failing to correctly classify material. This is not an argument for liberalising the classification system, already widely recognised as broken, it is an argument for ensuring classifiers do their job properly in the first place.”

Mr Shelton said Mr O’Connor’s selective use of the results of a telephone survey to claim 80% support for an R18+ classification for games was also a concern.

“I note that Mr O’Connor’s media statement fails to mention that the same survey found that two in three (70%) Australians agree that it would be difficult for parents to stop children from accessing R18+ games. The survey also found that 63% of Australians agree that playing violent computer games results in real life violence and that 59% of Australians agree that computer games should be classified differently, because the gamer is invited to participate in the violence, not just watch it,” he said.

“Clearly parents are very concerned about the effects of violent computer games and one has to wonder if they were misled into thinking lifting the ban on violent games would benefit children, when the opposite is true.”

Mr Shelton said the gaming industry stood to make a lot of money from having the ban on violent games lifted. “It is disappointing to think that the government is accepting the arguments of the gaming industry above those of Children’s Commissioners on the issue of child welfare. We urge State and Territory Censorship Ministers to consider this issue carefully and to keep in place the ban on extreme and interactive violent video games at Friday’s meeting.”