South Australia to scrap MA15+ games rating

Australia’s R18+ debate is heating up, with the nation’s Attorneys-General tipped to attend a “decision-making” meeting on the topic before the end of the month. For a while there, it had looked like (relatively) smooth sailing – but now an interestingly-shaped spanner’s been thrown in the works. South Australia is again calling to scrap the Mature Adult distinction for video games, effectively replacing it with an R18+ rating.

Australian R18+ Classification Symbol

Let's see how we go this week...

A spokesman for the state Attorney-General, John Rau has said that – regardless of what happens at this Friday’s meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General – the South Australian government would scrap the rating.

The notion was first raised in April this year, and was widely criticised, while government spokespeople claimed the media had “misunderstood” what Rau was proposing. Now though, it’s been made clear: Games rated MA15+ in other states (legally restricted to gamers 15 years and over) would instead receive R18+ ratings in South Australia (legally restricted to gamers 18 years and over).

Bracing for national backlash, the state Labor government, lead by long-running Premier Mike Rann has stated that it is prepared to become the only Australian jurisdiction without an MA15+ rating.

The South Australian opposition is claiming the move would make it “impossible” to enforce ratings nationally. Stephen Wade, spokesman for the local Liberal Party, has told [surl=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/rann-to-ditch-ma15-for-video-games/story-e6frgczx-1226096403210]local media[/surl] that he is “shocked” by the government’s move.

I think it would be bizarre if they were to go it alone. The Attorney-General has indicated that he appreciates that people will continue to access games, through downloading them and through mail order.

So it would be clearly an unfair impost on South Australian retailers at a time we are very aware of the competition between the online retail marker and the shopfront retail market.

John Rau

SA Attorney-General,
John Rau

Ron Curry, chief executive of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) has agreed with the Liberal Party, explaining that abolishing the MA15+ rating “makes no sense” – and would make it “nearly impossible” to advertise the same game nationally.

This isn’t the first time South Australia has made a fuss over the matter of video game ratings. Rau took on the Attorney-General job in March 2010, when he replaced the notoriously anti-gaming Michael Atkinson. For years, Atkinson had been considered the sole person holding the nation back from an R18+ rating – and Rau was heralded as a breath of fresh air. Have things gone stale over the past 15 months?

In an amusing twist, South Australia will host the SCAG meeting on Friday, when a decision is widely expected to be made, one way or the other.

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