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Australia Censorship Games Your Rights Online

Australian R18+ Rating For Games? Not Yet; NSW Refuses To Vote 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the that's-not-nice-mate dept.
UgLyPuNk writes "Just a few hours after the Australian gaming public was confused by the stance taken by the South Australian Attorney-General, they're now getting angry over his New South Wales counterpart's decision. While the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General had planned on making a decision regarding the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games on Friday at a meeting in Adelaide, the NSW Attorney-General has announced he will not vote on the topic at this time."
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Australian R18+ Rating For Games? Not Yet; NSW Refuses To Vote

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  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday July 18, 2011 @04:46PM (#36803730)

    Some AG in a territory can block a nationwide law if he doesn't want it? That's actually possible in Australia?

    Are you serious? If the whole country wants to enact a law but somewhere sits an AG with a diverging opinion, he can simply block it by not voting on it? That's quite a bit of power in the hands of a single person.

    • by bug1 (96678) on Monday July 18, 2011 @05:00PM (#36803926)

      Its not the federal government job to impose laws governing "state issues", and for whatever (stupid) reason, the issue of R18+ is considered an issue for the states.

      IFF all the states can agree then its easy for the federal government to make a federal law, they cant be accused of taking power away from the states.

      If the federal government try and do it without the states it could be challenged on constitutional grounds.

      What i dont understand is why the states dont implement these laws in their own state, without a national agreement.

      • by TBBle (72184) on Monday July 18, 2011 @08:13PM (#36806062) Homepage

        Because they have agreed not to, in order to keep things relatively in-sync. The individual implementations do vary state-by-state. For example, you can't sell or demonstrate RC video games in the ACT, but you can certainly own and play them. In WA (I understand) it's illegal to even own RC material.

        It's a state issue because everything is a state or territory issue except that limited set of things listed in the constitution. (One of these limited things is what makes "customs" a federal issue, which is why the customs rules are tighter than any state or territory's on RC material, but once it's past customs, those rules are irrelevant) So the federal government cannot make a law about classification, the best they can do is create and issue codes and guidelines. Which they do. It's a very similar thing in traffic law. We now have a national traffic law code, but each state must codify (and amend as they see fit) that code into their own law.

        • +1 Informative

          It bugs me though that if the OFLC is at the Federal level, and this should be harmonised across all states, why is the legislative power not also at the federal level? arrgh!

          • by Eskarel (565631) on Monday July 18, 2011 @11:49PM (#36807586)

            Because like most countries, our Consitution was written in a different age. One where states were relatively autonomous economically and so wanted to remain relatively autonomous politically. It's a different world now and to a large extent federation doesn't work all that much better for us than it does for the US in most things, it's not really all that likely to change any time soon though, and working out where the new line should be drawn is going to take some time. Some things are still state matters, but at the same time states cannot survive separately anymore the way they could a hundred years ago and so a number of state powers are irrational.

            • The states are an anachronism referring to the colonies to begin with - if you got rid of the states and devolved power to (fewer, consolidated) councils, would it really be that bad? Councils looking after local issues, the Commonwealth looking after national ones.

              There's very few issues that affect an individual state as a whole but not the neighbouring state - on the other hand, with sufficiently large councils, you would definitely have things which affect a single council but not the next. This would n

        • by strack (1051390)
          dude. this is australia. our constitution doesnt have quite the force of the U.S. constitution.
          • by Cimexus (1355033)

            What an utterly ridiculous statement. It has just as much force, and in fact, the US Constitution would pose exactly the same issue as the Australian one in this case (Federal Govt's inability to legislate on a State issue).

            Classification laws does not fall under the heads of power that the Constitution grants to the Federal Govt. It's therefore a State issue, and the Federal Government cannot legislate on the matter (they can suggest, they can issue non-binding codes of standards, they can bring people tog

            • I don't know if this is relevant, but a while back there was an issue with... ummm... terminating pregnancies in VIC. State law said no, Federal said yes.... but its the other way around? Or is this another kettle of fish entirely? I'm a little confused :S
              • by Cimexus (1355033)

                They would have had to find a Constitutional power for them to legislate over that. I'm not familiar with that exact case, but my guess is they related it to matters relating to health (which the Commonwealth can make laws regarding under the Constitution ... that's why Medicare is able to exist).

            • The US constitution has the commerce clause, which is sufficiently vague that it lets the federal government do more or less anything.
              • by Cimexus (1355033)

                Hmm the Australian Constitution has a similarish clause re freedom of inter-state trade. I'm not sure if it's more or less permissive than the US version. Let's see:

                US:

                Article I, Section 8, Clause 3: [The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;

                Australia:

                Chapter I, Part V, s 51(i): [The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth wit

                • That is the main criticism of the US clause. The court interpretation is far broader than the text may imply, basically just extending it to include anything that might even impact the price of any good enough to affect interstate commerce - see Wickard v. Filburn. Since all economic activity impacts the value of goods, as does most activity of any type, that means the commerce clause has become very nearly a grant of unlimited power to the US Congress.

                  Take the Wickard v. Filburn mentioned previously. The
            • The Constitution also allows for federal law to prevail whenever there is a conflict between a state law and federal one.

              While the federal government may not appear to have the ability to impinge on the states' rights, in fact it probably could if it wanted to.

              The external affairs laws, which allow the federal goverment to legislate to adhere to external treaties and obligations has been used in the past to circumvent state rights.

              The way it could work is that the federal government would just say "we have

      • Because historically, the only state that has ever had the balls to diverge from the others has been South Australia, and they're currently the nannies that blocked this thing in the first place.

        Having been the person to start the ball rolling with petitions to state governments (which flowed on to a great national petition sponsored largely by EB Games), I can summarise the response from the Qld State Parliament: "We'll watch what happens nationally and then consider it."

        You can look up my ePetition (1
      • If it's an 'issue for the states', then why does SA need NSW's vote to make a move on it for SA residents? Or vice versa? Why must all AGs vote on the issue even when there is already a *clear majority* voting in one direction enough to pass it, when it's not even a national issue? See the problem is simply this: Bullshit. Bullshit everywhere. It's all nonsense no matter which way they swing it.
      • by mcvos (645701)

        Its not the federal government job to impose laws governing "state issues", and for whatever (stupid) reason, the issue of R18+ is considered an issue for the states.

        If that were the case, then the states in favour of the R18+ rating could simply introduce it and ignore the NSW AG. But somehow states ended up with veto power over a federal issue.

    • This is the equivalent of the US federal government trying to get all the US states to agree on, for example, a nationwide uniform driver's licence or uniform state taxes. These things require the states to cede some level of actual or perceived control. If any state doesn't come to the party you don't get a uniform whatever, which is why federal governments usually have to offer sweeteners. That is not to stop any of the states that do agree from legislating the equivalent... but they miss out on the

    • It's no better here in the states. Here we have "secret holds," whereby a single senator can prevent a bill from being voted upon by anonymously witholding consent, thereby preventing the unanimous consent needed to bring the bill to the floor of the chamber. While in theory this was designed to allow legislators to have time to study a bill that directly affects his or her constituency, in practice it just allows one asshat to obstruct indefinitely. Thankfully the practice has been weakened in the current
    • by Twisted64 (837490)
      Well we have a grand total of six states and a couple of territories worth mentioning, so that attorney-general will 'represent' a hefty chunk of the population.
    • by TBBle (72184)

      This only applies to certain laws, where pre-existing agreements... exist *cough* to keep the relevant laws in sync between states and territories. It just happens that the classification system is one of them.

      http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Committeesandcouncils_Ministerialcouncils_StandingCommitteeofAttorneysGeneral [ag.gov.au]

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday July 18, 2011 @04:47PM (#36803748)

    In the U.S. we have a similar industry-enforced classification called AO (Adults Only). But it's completely worthless, as no store will carry any AO games. So even if you got the classification, it wouldn't necessarily make it any easier to actually produce an adult game.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You can always buy/sell AO games online. In Australia it is illegal to sell unrated games, period.

      Besides the US rating scheme is industry run and enforced. The Australian rating scheme is, I believe, government run and enforced.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Who enforces it is really meaningless in any practical sense. No one can afford to produce an AO game because the only way to sell it would be directly on your own website. You also couldn't port it to anything but Android phones--no consoles, no iPhones, etc. Basically if you want to produce an AO game that costs any real money to make, you're SOL. No one will sell it, no one will let it on their closed devices/consoles, no one will even run ads for it.

        Is that really any better than the Australian system?

        • There are several very popular games that are not on sale in australia, and it's possibly illegal to import them.

        • by dakameleon (1126377) on Monday July 18, 2011 @09:22PM (#36806694)

          Did people forget about the PC all of a sudden?

          That aside, the issue here in Australia is that games are judged to a different scale to movies, due to their interactive nature apparently, as well as the unsaid "child-focused" nature of gaming (I kid you not). Games which fail to meet the Office of Film & Literature Classification board's standards for the "Mature Adults Only (15+)" band - are therefore refused classification (RC), and refused classification means it won't be allowed to be imported into the country, let alone sold. Any explicit sexual content and extreme violence seems to get you over the line here. A rating certificate can also be revoked if later updates provide material which violates standards.

          This has resulted in certain games, like the latest Mortal Kombat, or the initial version of GTA 3 (iirc... some big game in any case), being RC'd. I think GTA was revised at the last minute for the Australian version, allowing sale, but Mortal Kombat's producers refused to change and the game wasn't allowed for sale. No huge loss, some might say, but the adults of Australia are asking for the discretion to judge it for themselves. There's also a somebody-think-of-the-children argument in that some games with significant violence are shoe-horned into the MA15+ category when they more properly belong in an R18+ category.

          • by Cimexus (1355033)

            All very true.

            Of course in practice people still import RC games and 99% of the time Customs don't check the package, and there's no problem. I know plenty of people with the new Mortal Kombat, for instance.

            The beauty of it is that, even though illegal to SELL, it's perfectly legal to own and play an RC game one you acquire it (except, I believe in Qld and WA). I have the (US) version of Fallout 3, which is RC in Australia, but since I live in the ACT it's perfectly legal to play it. (A bad example since th

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          You really don't seem to have an understanding of how the Aussie rating system works at all do you? In Australia games like Mortal Kombat and Left 4 Dead are outright banned and other games have to have their content seriously censored before release (eg GTA) as the highest rating is for 15 year olds for Australia with Games. Australia does not have a mature or R equivalent ratings that the US and others sell games like Mortal Kombat under. our highest rating does not permit violent content, any sort of dru
        • Reminds me of the old Hays code for movies. It worked in much the same way - although not legally enforced in any way, it was impossible to make any money off a non-compliant film because very few cinemas would show it and very few distributors would distribute it.
    • I wish i had mod points. This is 100% correct, and for many games it is a death sentence. There have been games that initially receive a rating M for Mature(17 years old to buy) which have been rated AO upon review after some "think of the children" mob sinks their teeth in.

      A R18 rating will do nothing for the Aussie gaming market
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 18, 2011 @04:59PM (#36803908)

        No, no, no. Please become more informed. As other commenters have pointed out, unrated games CANNOT be sold legally in Australia, not even online. It is a big deal to get a R18+ rating even if brick-and-mortar won't sell it, because it means the end of government-mandated censorship of games.

        • by TBBle (72184)

          it means the end of government-mandated censorship of games.

          No. We are talking about a _change_ in the government-mandated censorship of games to match that applied to the film industry.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          CANNOT be sold legally in Australia, not even online.

          That is not entirely true. They cannot be legally sold in Australia not even online by an Australian company. The restriction of the sale of R18+ games applies to the sale point only, NOT to imports. You can very well buy an R18+ game from say Amazon, a company with no presence in Australia and have them internationally ship it with no issue. In theory you should even be able to get it on Steam given all transactions happen internationally in a different currency, but there's a policy issue holding that out

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Er, the situation in Australia is totally different from what's currently in the US and most other countries -- their highest rating is 15+, which is like T for Teen in the US. They don't have anything higher than that, which means they often get severely gimped versions of games, or worse, certain games don't get released there at all. The 18+ rating would actually be like the US's R rating, which Australia desperately needs.

    • by Spigot the Bear (2318678) on Monday July 18, 2011 @05:31PM (#36804346)

      In the U.S. we have a similar industry-enforced classification called AO (Adults Only). But it's completely worthless, as no store will carry any AO games. So even if you got the classification, it wouldn't necessarily make it any easier to actually produce an adult game.

      I'm not quite sure you understand what's going on here. The highest game rating in Australia is 15, which is analogous to the highest movie rating in the US being PG-13. Anything unsuitable for a 15 year old simply cannot be sold there. The rating they're trying to introduce in Australia is similar to our M rating for games (i.e. R rated movies). With this rating, games containing violence/language/sex suitable for an adult, but not a 15 year old, can be sold on the market. X-rated games are a whole other issue.

    • Is AO given to full on graphic sexual content? Because the R18+ rating in Australia would be mainly used for violent games, e.g. Mortal Kombat. Graphic sexual content in Australia gets a X rating.

    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      I don't think that'll be a problem here. You see, the R18+ rating already exists for movies, TV shows, books, magazines etc. And those things are all sold in stores. It's just this rating doesn't exist for games at the moment. Introducing R18 for games will simply bring them in-line with the same classifications as already exist for other media.

      As it stands, a lot of games that would probably be R18+, if it existed, simply get classified as MA15+ at the moment. And stores still sell them. So I don't really

  • Face it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 18, 2011 @06:14PM (#36804796)

    The Australian government HATES video games.

    • Re:Face it (Score:4, Informative)

      by dakameleon (1126377) on Monday July 18, 2011 @09:24PM (#36806710)

      In this case, you can actually blame the newly elected conservatives in the NSW government, possibly trying to appease Rev. Fred Nile & his Christian Democrats in the NSW upper house.

      • by Antarius (542615)
        Except that the last time this got fucked up, it was by the South Australian Labor Party and their AG.

        The problem is that the Attorneys General are not directly accountable to anyone but their own electorate... So they just don't care.

        They know that people are too stupid to realise that in our elections, they're not voting for "their leader," that they are voting for their representative for their electorate. They know that the voters (who don't want to be there anyway) will number the boxes based on w
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pirate Party Australia has recommended the implementation of a voluntary classification system like the ESRB or PEGI, the removal of the Refused Classification category and the ability to sell unclassified material to adults only, and of course, R18+ for games. It can be found here [pirateparty.org.au].

    All the other submissions can be found on the ALRC site here [alrc.gov.au].

  • You've got to wonder why a body of governance that is responsible for advising parents as to the suitability of media for their children, think that they are entitled to prevent adults from enjoying media specificity created for an adult audience. Completely overstepping their authority if you ask me.

    If you look at the list of modified titles and non-released games, dew to the lack of a +18 classification, none of the games are anywhere near justifying a Not Classifieds, so why prevent adults from play

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