Australia is set to join the rest of the Western world with an adults-only rating for video games officially to be made law on January 1st, 2013.
Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, Jason Clare, has officially introduced legislation to establish an R18+ category for computer games to parliament. While the legislation must now jump through a number of hoops, if everything goes to plan, the Federal Government's legislation is scheduled to come into effect on New Years' Day.
The move will bring the Australian computer game classification categories into line with the categories currently used to classify film - and, equally importantly, it will also mean the country uses a similar classification system to many countries overseas. (Close neighbour New Zealand, for example.)
Today, the highest legally-available classification for computer games is MA15+ - for "mature adults" aged 15 years and over. If the game is considered inappropriate for a 15 year old, then it is Refused Classification - effectively banned from sale or distribution throughout the entire country.
Mr Clare explains:
The R 18+ category will inform consumers, parents and retailers about which games are not suitable for minors to play, and will prevent minors from purchasing unsuitable material.
It's been a long road for R18+ campaigners - the Home Affairs minister has been working closely with state and territory representatives to come to an appropriate conclusion. Over the past two years there has been extensive public consultation which showed strong support for the classification reform - 98% of Australians supported the introduction of an R18+ category, based on 58,437 responses to a 2009 discussion paper.
The Bill itself is remarkably simple, merely showing the main amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act of 1995. Primarily, it adds "R18+" to the relevant parts of the original (amended) act. As with everything though, the devil's in the details - and the actual guidelines of what constitutes an R18+ classification in Australia have not yet been revealed.
So: Now what?
The bill has been introduced to the Lower House of the Australian parliament, who will debate the reform before voting for or against. If all goes well, it will then be introduced into the Senate, where it will be debated again and then - if the majority agrees - passed into law.
At the same time, the State and Territory Governments will introduce their own complementary legislation.
The Federal Government legislation - covering the whole of Australia - is scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2013 (providing there are no delays). The State and Territory legislations may arrive later.
Today's news is not a confirmation of an R18+ rating for computer games in Australia - but it, combined with a date, is the start of the home stretch.
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Jimmy the Geek