It’s happened. The R18+ classification for video games has finally been passed in Australia. Time to rejoice, right? Well not entirely. As some of you may have guessed, R18+ has once again hit a few walls at the state level, which might actually see the classification missing the projected January 1st implementation date. It’s as though we’ve just pulled off the R18+ highway but are now stuck driving around the suburbs with a bit of backtracking, trying to find our mate’s place.
According to Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA), despite gamers’ optimism, it’s not all smooth sailing from here on out.
“Queensland have said that the R18+ doesn’t sit within its hundred day plan, so we’re not sure if and when it will pass through Parliament, and New South Wales are making some noises about the legislation, saying they won’t pass legislation until they’ve seen the guidelines,” he said. “And WA who were supportive at one stage aren’t making all the right noises now, so not necessarily smooth sailing but we’ve got our fingers crossed.”
Although nearing completion, the R18+ guidelines are yet to be finalised, hence the NSW position. Without limited and fairly ancient, public information on the guidelines, it’s impossible to determine NSW’s position on the matter until they are complete. While NSW may immediately accept the legislation, there’s also the possibility that they will call for a review of the new classification, significantly slowing down the process further.
In July 2011, NSW held a similarly conservative position when they chose not to vote on the issue in principle. By August, however, they had moved to support R18+, and while this is only speculation, they may make a similar move this time around. But with the new guidelines due for completion in the coming weeks, NSW is likely to declare its views on the R18+ legislation before the year is out.
The picture for Queensland however seems much bleaker. As the R18+ legislation passed through the House of Representatives before the Liberal Party (LNP) came to power in Queensland, this will be the first time that Campbell Newman and co. will have any form of control over the future of the classification. While the LNP may very well lack the time to focus on the new classification within the next 100 days, there are additional factors which generate an air of skepticism.
Firstly, R18+ will allow for Newman to ‘play politics,’ if he so chooses, in the sense that he opposes the complimentary legislation, purely to undermine the Labor party that supported it. This could also be the case with the Federal Parliament; however a recent interview with Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare on Good Game, suggests that both sides of politics support the introduction of R18+.
Secondly, his conservative views, which have become incredibly apparent during the recent social overhaul of Queensland, do not bode well for adult content in games. Having had no opportunity to control the progress of the legislation so far, it makes sense that Newman has not dedicated any time to it, hence his lack of coverage on the issue in any great detail. In the past however, the most vocal opponents of the R18+ classification in the past have come from conservative backgrounds, which share Newman’s views on other social issues which have come to the fore in Queensland. Again, this is simply speculation.
Finally, Newman appears to hold a strong relationship with the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), who have spoken out in favour of the new classification, but in a rather broken manner, which could impact on the progress of the legislation. In a recent interview with Kotaku: Australia, ACL managing director Jim Wallace stated that the restrictions imposed by the R18+ classification should match those of the current MA15+ rating. “If [R18+] is described in looser terms, or is less demanding than the existing MA15+ — which is already letting [in] things that shouldn’t have been there — then it’s not going to work,” he said to Kotaku. If the new guidelines do not meet ACL standards, Newman could once again bow to pressure and oppose its introduction.
There’s not so much cause for concern in Western Australia, as Premier Colin Barnett has lead the state since the legislation was given the green light at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting that gave the green light for the new legislation. The only real issue there is the resignation of WA Attorney-General Christian Porter, as the position could be filled by an individual akin to Michael Atkinson, slowing everything down in WA. In the past, Porter came under pressure from the party in 2010 to vote against the R18+ classification, and while the party has evidently changed its views, the AG job could be filled by an individual within the party who pressured Porter in 2010.
Otherwise everything seems relatively fine and dandy in the other states. Although Jon Rau is seemingly pushing ahead with his plan to remove the MA15+ category, South Australia has shown no opposition to R18+. The Australian Capital Territory is putting the classification into state legislation, even if they are the only ones to do so, making R18+ almost a certainty there. Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson has previously stated he is open to the idea of a change provided public debate points in favour of one, which it clearly has. Victoria has shown no signs of opposition, and being a Labor state, Tasmania is more than likely to pass the legislation.
Essentially, the only real concern is in Queensland, as there is basically no information that can definitively point to which position Newman will take, nor will there be for at least 100 days. Granted, it’s all speculation at this stage, but given the history of this debate, you may want to hesitate organising a Mortal Kombat party for new year’s day.