Late last year we reported that a discussion paper on the possible introduction of an R18+ rating for videogames in Australia was on the way. It's been awhile coming, but Gamespot has confirmed that the paper will now be released by the Office of the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, after the Ministers responsible for censorship (Australia's Attorneys-General) couldn't agree on the paper's content at the most recent meeting of the Standing Committee of the Attorneys-General (SCAG).
ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell said, "Because there was no unanimous agreement amongst all states and territories about the release of the discussion paper, the Commonwealth is circumventing our requirements for unanimous agreement and will release the discussion paper under their own name."
Unfortunately, no timeline for the release of the paper has been specified yet, but Mr Corbell did say the "paper will be released shortly." PALGN will publish more details as they become available.
It should be noted that following the period of public consultation, the decision over whether Australia should have an R18+ classification for videogames will still be made by the Attorneys-General, in their capacity as the Ministers responsible for censorship.
Usually cast as the villain in the R18+ debate, South Australia Attorney-General Michael Atkinson pointed out that he wasn't alone in his anti-R18+ view.
"The standard line is that I was the only one responsible for stopping this discussion paper. I think it's important that a discussion paper be released."
Atkinson is also critical of the Australian Classification Board, claiming that they can misapply the classification guidelines and incorrectly classify some games.
"I don't doubt gamers when they say that some games that are classified MA15+ in Australia should have been classified R18+; that is a possibility in my experience," said Atkinson. "I am critical of the OFLC. I believe it bends over backwards for the industry rather than the public interest."
Atkinson proposes a separate classification guide for games separate to other material. Encouragingly, he does claim to be open to debate on the matter.
"I'm open to discussion. My position now is that I'm opposed to an R18+ classification, but let's see how the debate progresses. Let's see what concessions gamers and the industry are prepared to make. This would involve the Classification Board applying the guidelines correctly."
To read more about the videogame rating issue in Australia, visit everyoneplays.org.au.