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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 3013

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (18:24): I thank the honourable member for his education. I will try and remember some of that or, if not, look at the Hansard. It was only a couple of months ago that I visited a high school in my electorate and we were talking about technology. I was explaining to these students, who I think were in year 11, about how we were taught to use slide rules, and that was greeted with mirth and much consternation. I know the member for Banks would know all about this because he and I went to school together from kindergarten. He was probably far better on the slide rule than I was; he went on to become a lawyer so he must have been. It is interesting from the aspect of my generation that we did talk about slide rules and the application of log tables, but that is just when we are talking about maths. There are so many other things in technology which have far outstripped anything that we could have contemplated when we were at school and at the age which is being targeted by this change in the classification structure for video gaming.

I am very fortunate. I have five grandchildren, and one of my grandchildren, 10-year-old Nathaniel, is absolutely very gifted when it comes to gaming. He is very gifted when it comes to maths as well, but when it comes to gaming he excels. One of the things a dutiful grandfather does is take the grandchildren along and try to encourage them to buy books, and nine times out of 10 it is not the books they want it is the game. I have to say that, for the life of me, I cannot make a value judgement on these things. I take what is there and, when it says 15+, I know for a fact that my grandson Nathaniel at age 10 can fly through games like that. I have heard what other members have said in this debate on what is currently available in the 15+ category but, unless I have the ability to go through and look at those things myself, many of these things would effectively go through to the keeper. I will be out there doing my grandfatherly duty and thinking I am doing the right thing for my grandson, only to find out that it might be a game like the honourable member was referring to that he plays at the age of 35 or whatever on his iPhone.

This is very much a tool for parents, or in my case grandparents. It is not out there to debilitate the user market. The member for Moncrieff was saying that the average gamer is aged 35. I know when the member for Banks and I went to school, the only choice you had about games was rugby league in the winter and cricket in the summer.

Mr Melham: It was marvellous.

Mr HAYES: We were a bit younger then. I understand that things have changed very rapidly and I understand people's use of video based games, particularly online gaming. We see the problem manifest now in respect of online gambling. For instance, we were recently publicly discussing the issue of poker machines. While that is taking place, simultaneously there is this large and ever-emerging issue of online gambling. As regulators these are things that we need to stay in touch with in such a way that we protect the community and help the community to make value decisions.

My decision to support the bill is not so much to ensure that there is an R18+ rating established for video games to restrict 18-year-olds but to focus on using it as a tool, particularly for parents. When it comes to gaming there is certainly a generational aspect. I have tried to finesse it a little, and the grey hair of the member for Banks and I probably gives the game away a little, but there is very much a generational aspect to the take-up of gaming technology. I see that this would be something that I would value as a grandparent when I am going out to do the right thing to buy my grandson a game. I would very much prefer to buy him a book but I know that that probably is just not going to happen. That is something that I think we do need to focus on. I, like everybody else, have received many representations from people saying that you are asserting the legislators' role and restricting the liberty of people. That is true, but most times when we make a law it does actually restrict a person's liberty. But, in this case, you must say that the community value of that must be assessed. This bill is not trying to deprive the ability of people to access games, but it is certainly making a value judgment on what should be restricted for younger and developing minds.

Videogames are far different from simply going to the movies and seeing something that is R rated. This is a form of technology that invites participation. It invites the person playing the game to be highly interactive with it. It invites the person to perhaps kill off opponents to get to the next level of a game, with increasing levels of violence to meet higher targets or reward rates that are recognised within the gaming community. If that is right, and if some of these games have the level of violence that the previous speakers have indicated—I have to say I have not seen these games—and if it is right that many also transgress into gaming of a sexual nature then these are not things that we want to see in the hands of young and developing minds. It is one thing to witness something as a bystander or watch it sitting in a theatre; it is another thing entirely to be engaged and encouraged to participate and have your mindset set around the participation in an objective or a cause, whether that cause is right or wrong, when the cause is dictated by the game itself.

These are things that are a concern to me and certainly of concern to our party, and no doubt the House as a whole. I have grandchildren, who are very much involved in gaming, one who I have indicated is very gifted in that respect, notwithstanding the fact that he is only 10 years old. I think I would need some guidance if I were going out to look at games for him. I am sure he would probably tell me something different. He would probably want the best of what he could possibly do or the most challenging game he could possibly get. The thing is we do want to have some say in restricting the games that can get into the minds of younger people—games that we would ordinarily think were inappropriate.

I have seen some research material that indicates that, unlike movies, interacting with games has an impact on a person's outlook to violence and desensitises people to violence. I am not sure of the validity of that research. But, in my own mind, I can make a significant distinction between sitting back and passively watching something with an entertainment value and actually rolling up your sleeves, getting involved and becoming part of the game itself—being a perpetrator of violence or anything else. Participating in the game to that extent takes you from the realm of simply watching characters on a screen to one of participation. As many of us know throughout our electorates, there have been many instances of people who, regrettably, have been arrested in the last couple of years for matters in respect of pornography, particularly child based pornography. The police are doing a fantastic job going about researching and investigating child pornography. One of thing things that strikes me absolutely is to what extent those who participate go from a very surreal environment to when they hit the send button and reality comes to mind. When they are sitting back being voyeuristic or whatever, in the comfort of their own place, it is not until they hit the send button when they go out and solicit somebody. If you take the same analogy and put it to gaming, it is where you are sitting back, participating, and you think at that stage, whether it be sexual degradation or violence, 'This is all acceptable and part of the game and I am part of the game.' I would think that should be quarantined to a mature mind, one who can actually make the decision that this is not real, this is a game, and it therefore would not impact the developing minds of the young. They are the reasons I support this bill. I do not ordinarily believe in censorship but in cases of extreme violence, particularly violence of a sexual nature, I honestly believe we should be doing everything humanly possible as a caring community to protect children.