I support the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012. This bill introduces an R 18+ rating for computer games to allow Australian adult gamers access to computer games designed for an adult audience and to help prevent such games from being played by children. It may also help games currently rated MA 15+ to be more appropriately rated R 18+, as they often are in other countries. Too often computer games are made available to children that many in our community feel are not appropriate. We read newspaper articles about the latest violent games and wonder whether playing such games has a negative impact on young minds. Various experts tell us that the research is inconclusive, that there is no impact or that there is an impact.
The same debate about violence on television and in films has been going on for years. We know as a community that we can consider whether computer game content should be regulated similarly to other media content, and that some content is okay for three-year-olds to watch on Saturday morning and play on mum and dad's computer or iPad. Conversely, no-one can dispute that some content is not okay for kids to watch at home on DVD or to play on a PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo Wii. However, it is a common misconception that most gamers are children and teenagers. In fact, the average age of Australian computer gamers in 2009 was 30 years of age, rising from 24 years in 2005 and 28 years in 2007. This age is set to rise as more people play games on electronic devices such as iPads and iPhones, whether at home, while visiting friends and family or while travelling to and from work.
In this context the National Classification Scheme has an important role to play, and that is not debatable. The scheme ensures that people are aware of the type of content in computer games that are being played. As with films, they will know that a film or a computer game rated G is okay for young children. Similarly, with the passage of this bill, they will know that a film or computer game rated R 18+ is not considered suitable for children. Australia is behind the rest of the developed world in not allowing adult-only computer games. These games are available in all European Union [EU] countries, the United States of America, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. At the moment, any games not considered suitable for children or adolescents are refused classification in Australia. In national consultation in early 2010, 98 per cent of those who made written submissions—more than 58,000 individuals and organisations in all—supported the move to introduce an R 18+ rating. A telephone poll in November 2010 of more than 2,000 Australians found that 80 per cent supported a new rating system. Games classified R 18+ will be clearly marked, as are films, alerting everyone to the type of content they are likely include.
There will be restrictions on the sale and delivery of R 18+ games to children, which will help parents protect their children from inappropriate content and protect adults from being exposed to unsolicited material that they may find offensive. I highlight the following amendments in the bill: Computer games will be able to be classified R 18+ from 1 January 2013, following the recent passage of Commonwealth legislation amending the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.
This bill introduces an R 18+ rating for computer games, allowing games that have been classified by the Classification Board of the Commonwealth to be sold in New South Wales. Computer games are classified under the National Classification Scheme that operates with the support of all Australian jurisdictions. There has been longstanding debate about whether there should be an R 18+ rating for computer games. Some oppose it on the basis that children will be better able to access the games. Others support it on the basis that adults should be able to play computer games designed for them. Both of these arguments hold weight and both are recognised in the National Classification Code, which sets out the principles that the Classification Board must give effect to in making classification decisions. The principles are that adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want and minors should be protected from material that is likely to harm or disturb them. I commend the bill to the House.