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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1888

Senator TIERNEY —Pursuant to my notice of intention given earlier today, I now formally withdraw business of the Senate notices of motion Nos 1 and 2 standing in my name for today for the disallowance of an ACT ordinance and parts of an ordinance. In accordance with the usual practice, I seek leave to briefly explain why I am withdrawing these disallowance motions.

  Leave granted.

Senator TIERNEY —These motions relate to the section of the ordinances that would allow R and X computer and video games into the ACT and, therefore, from our experience previously with videos, the rest of Australia. It has been of great concern since the development of this modern technology that R and X computer and video games, like videos before them, would spread across the country.

  The Senate Select Committee on Community Standards was so concerned about this matter that it held a series of hearings across Australia. It collected evidence from industry, consumers and, interestingly enough, school children about the effect of these video games. This problem came home to me most recently when a friend of my daughter's was visiting. I mentioned what we were doing in the Senate and she said that her mother's boyfriend had a game called mortal combat. What she described was absolutely disgusting. As a minor she is open to observing these sorts of games because they are in the house and readily available.

  It is very disturbing that, with this new technology, these things are becoming increasingly available. The evidence that our committee gathered indicated that the extrasensory intensity of computer video games is way above that of video and that the mental effects of repetitive play of this sort of material are extremely dangerous to children. We are also concerned about the lack of long-term research in this area and the long-term effects of children's exposure to this sort of material.

  The committee therefore recommended in its report last November that with this material we should only allow up to the MA classification. Towards the end of last year this was considered by the state ministers responsible for censorship. Unfortunately, at that time they agreed to accept the recommendation of the Office of Film and Literature Classification to allow a full range up to R and X on this sort of material—admittedly with a modified standard—in each area. This was of great concern. Censorship being a state matter, it was up to the states to determine which levels they would accept.

  Until recently we were very concerned that some states and territories might accept the R and X classifications for computer video games. One by one, they all backed down. The last one to back down was the ACT. I pay tribute to my colleague John Hannaford, the Attorney-General in New South Wales, for his advocacy of removing R and X categories. I heard a very interesting debate between him and the ACT Attorney-General in which I felt John Hannaford put the arguments very strongly. In recent times we have seen the ACT finally backing down and its parliament deciding not to have the R and X categories. Therefore, my notices of motion, the original intention of which was to stop R and X rated games coming into the ACT, are no longer needed.

  Yesterday the Governor-General signed the documents to change the ordinance to take out R and X classifications. Having examined what the Attorney-General (Mr Lavarch) had intended and what actually happened, we are now satisfied that this matter has been properly covered. I thank the Attorney-General for his prompt attention to this matter, for his personal correspondence with me assuring me that he would do this and for his recent actions speeding it up.

  In terms of Senate procedure, I note that what sped up this matter in the Attorney-General's office were these notices of motion and the fact that when they were brought down today they would have created enormous legal problems unless the federal government had sorted out this matter. It has now been sorted out. We have a uniform standard across Australia whereby all states and territories do not allow R and X classifications. It is a very responsible decision by government and it is a very rapid response to a very rapidly changing technology. I believe the outcome works for the protection of the children of Australia.