Saturday, January 2, 2010

R18+ Classification: A reply from the Attorney-General's Department

Shortly before Christmas the long awaited discussion paper on an R 18+ rating for video games was released. It can be found here and I encourage all Australian residents to send in a reply.

Shortly before hand I sent a letter to Brendan O’Connor, the Minister for Home Affairs asking when the discussion paper would be released. Little did I know it would be released only a couple of days latter, which made the whole exercise feel a little late and silly. Today I received a reply, and even though it doesn't mean a whole lot now that the discussion paper is out I thought I'd post a transcript of the letter here for posterity.

Dear Mr Droste 
Thank you for your recent correspondence about an R 18+ classification for computer games. 
I am pleased to advise that a discussion paper Should the Australian National Classification Scheme include an R 18+ classification category for computer games? has been released seeking input from the public on this issue. The views you have expressed will be taken into consideration by the Department when preparing its report on the responses to the discussion paper. The report will be given to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. 
However, if you are also interested in providing further comments and responding to the discussion paper, it is available at Instructions for responding to the discussion paper are set out on the website. The closing date for comments is 28 February 2010. 
I hope this information is of assistance to you. 
Yours sincerely
Peter Treyde
Acting Assistant Secretary
Copyright and Classification Policy branch

My original letter, send on December 10, 2009:

The Hon. Brendan O’Connor MP
Minister for Home Affairs
PO Box 6022
Parliament House
Canberra ACT, 2601 
Dear Minister O’Conner, 
I write concerning the discussion paper on the introduction of an R 18+ rating for video games. 
For some time now there has been growing public debate about Australia’s lack of an R 18+ rating, and indeed since the discussion paper was first promised over a year ago public interest in the issue has continued grow. This year alone has seen several high profile games Refused Classification, an increased media interest in the issue, Queensland residents have begun a government petition to allow R 18+ games into their state, and just last weekend a public rally concerning the issue was held in Brisbane. 
Perhaps the most important next step in this debate is the release of the long promised discussion paper. Yet there is still no word on when this paper will be released. 
Video games have fast become the preeminent entertainment medium of the 21st century, yet we continue to restrict and censor them based on classification laws established at time prior to serious academic study of games and before they had become the mass market entertainment medium they are today. Put simply, our classification laws are out of date. 
The lack of an R 18+ rating denies Australian adults the right to choose the media they wish to consume, makes it more difficult for parents to determine what content is suitable for their children, harms local business by encouraging video game piracy and importation from overseas, and sets a dangerous precedent for the medium’s legitimacy as a form of entertainment enjoyed by Australians of all ages. 
The debate surrounding this issue continues gain support year on year, and with millions of Australian adults engaging in video games I believe that we should all be given the opportunity to have our say on this issue. 
The release of the discussion paper is a vital step in the future of this debate. 
To that end, I request that you please advise when the discussion paper will be released. 
Yours sincerely, 
Ben Droste

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