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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 3025

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (19:20): I too rise to speak for the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012. As chair of the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs I was pleased to lead the review of this bill. R18+ classification of computer games is an issue that I have received much correspondence about in my electorate, as I am sure most MPs have. It is certainly an issue that was raised quite regularly at my local mobile offices.

The Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee recommended unanimously that this bill pass the House without amendment. We could have called for submissions and held a time-consuming public consultation process but, as the member for Mitchell indicated, this has been a long time coming and the committee noted that there had already been significant consultation. A discussion paper issued by the Attorney-General's Department on the introduction of an R18+ category for computer games received almost 60,000 submissions. Gamers are certainly techno-savvy and know how to communicate. Therefore, the committee did not believe it was necessary for us to duplicate this consultation.

The laws relating to how we classify or rate media are important for allowing consumers to make informed choices about what they see and hear and play. They are important for protecting children and young people from viewing material that is inappropriate. The National Classification Scheme classifies films, including videos and DVDs, computer games and some publications. State and territory governments also have classification legislation in place to enforce this scheme.

Computer games in Australia are a big industry, especially in Queensland, where designers have developed world-class games. I saw the Premier of Queensland the other day at a campaign event for the Business Young Guns. She was actually at the Fruit Ninja Kinect game, which has had one million downloads. She and Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser were playing the Fruit Ninja Kinect game. I am reliably informed by sources in the chamber that it is a very good game. It was developed in Brisbane. Fruit Ninja Kinect has had one million downloads. They have also had Jetpack Joyride, which has had 14 million downloads. These people are able to take their technology and higher skills, use the NBN et cetera and take Australian expertise to the world.

In recent years, while there have a few hiccups, the industry has been experiencing massive growth. The video games industry is now twice the size of the Australian box office and 40 per cent larger than the DVD industry. The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia says that games industry revenue increased 47 per cent during the 2008 calendar year, reaching nearly $2 billion. This is big business. Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia figures show just a six per cent increase to $946 million, while revenue for movies sold on DVDs and Blu-ray was up five per cent to $1.4 billion. Comparing those increases you can see where things are heading.

So it is a reasonable question to ask why computer games were treated differently under our current classification laws. Often in this place we are faced with competing interests—the interests of farmers versus miners, developers versus environmentalists, scientists versus sceptics, Warringah versus Wentworth. The challenge for the parliament, for every MP, when faced with competing interests is to strike the right balance—the balance that best serves the national interest. This bill does just that when faced with the dilemma about protecting children from unsuitable computer games and ensuring adults are free to make their own decisions about the sort of games they wish to play. I imagine computer games today are a little different to the Space Invaders I used to play on the St George State High School Commodore 64. That is why the current classification categories for computer games include G, PG, M, and MA15+ or matured accompanied. When it comes to computer games, I know from talking to people who have worked in that industry that it is very hard to classify games because there are lots of nooks and crannies and grottos in the games where people have in the past tried to bring in material that was not appropriate for the classification. There are people who actually sit around and play these games to work out whether the material is appropriate for the classification. Currently, if the games do not fall into the categories I mentioned they are refused classification and, therefore, their sale is prohibited in Australia but not in other countries. I believe there is something called the internet that lets people access these games.

There is currently no rating that restricts computer games to adults as there is with films classified R18+, so this common-sense bill introduces an R18+ category to the classification system for computer games. It follows at least 10 years of negotiations and consultation and has unanimous agreement now from the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. There were some long-term hold-outs but now there is national consensus. There is also strong support in the community for this logical reform, especially in my electorate of Moreton. There is no reason why computer game classification should be treated differently from film classification, and many countries already have a similar classification system in place. The R18+ category will ensure consumers, parents and retailers are well informed about the content of a computer game they choose to buy. There will be a clearer understanding about what is suitable for minors to play and it will help prevent children from accessing unsuitable material.

As I said, this bill strikes the right balance. It protects children from material that may be harmful while ensuring that adults have the freedom to make their own choices about the computer games they play, as long as these games remain within the law. I commend the Minister for Justice for introducing this bill.

Debate adjourned.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:27