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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3401

Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (16:09): I rise to speak on the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012. The bill envisages creating a new category of R18+ for video games and the like, which currently do not have such a classification. By nature I am opposed to censorship, especially censorship of the media. But I accept that in all areas of the media, and in particular in the field of film, video and games entertainment, there is a need for a community standard to be set.

As honourable members are aware, in the film and video field and on television we have the classifications of G, general exhibition; PG, parental guidance required; M, mature; MA15+, where there is supposed to be a form of adult supervision; and, finally, R18+, which of course does not apply to television films—they stop at MA15+. But in all other things there is an R certificate. The proprietor of a theatre is required never to sell a ticket to an R certificated film to a person under 18 years of age, just as the owner of a video shop is required never to sell an R certificated video to a person under 18 years of age. I support that.

I have had a long history in the entertainment business. I worked for the Arts Council in Queensland, when it separated from New South Wales. That was my first major job. And I spent a substantial portion of my life as a manager, supervisor and owner of theatres. I lived through the era of the introduction of the R certificated film. It was very hotly contested in the community at the time. I, for one, thought it was a good thing because the R certificate allowed adults to see adult material in an adult context. In the theatres I managed in the weeks it was first introduced I put a policeman on special duty. In those days you could hire a policeman for special duty. I wanted to send the message out to the young people that we were fair dinkum and were not going to let in anyone who was under 18 years of age. In fact, I remember turning away the daughter of my wife's best friend, who was 17 years and nine months old. Everyone thought I was being a bit tough. But I wanted to send the message out to everyone, friend and foe alike, that if we were going to have this new form of entertainment it was going to be fair dinkum. I got caught at times. I have no doubt some little toerags got under my radar. I remember one day I came up to this lovely girl with flaxen hair, long plaits and ribbons and I thought, 'Dear, oh dear.' I said, 'Listen, my dear, you are not seriously telling me that you are over 18.' She looked me straight in the eye and said, 'Mr Neville, my name is Marylou 'so and so'. I have a Bachelor of Teaching, with Honours, and I have been teaching for two years.' So I was put back in my place very promptly. She looked every bit of 15. So, I do not doubt that from time to time people get under the radar, but that is not an excuse for not having good controls. I am equally keen to see that the introduction of R certificated films should never become an excuse for the liberalisation of the X certificate or the reintroduction of NVE, or non-violent erotica, classification that the previous coalition government rejected. If you apply that to this games regime, nor should the R18+ certificate be a signal to the pornography industry that there is going to be even further liberalisation. I for one would strongly oppose that.

I like the questions posed in the classical English definition of pornography: does it tend to deprave or corrupt; is it a danger in the hands of the young or the unwitting; does it grievously offend community standards? If material cannot meet that test it should not come in. I have a friend who works for Blue Care and counsels young people who, amongst other things, have been subjected to child abuse. He tells me one of the classic tools of grooming a child for paedophilia is hardcore, X certificated films. The industry should not see this R certificate games category as a foot in the door for going further. It should be to allow adults in an adult context to view material or in this case to play games for their own entertainment, free from children under 18 years of age.

People have grown up with games, and the average age of game players is now 32. A high proportion of game players, we are told as much as 75 per cent, are adults. I am not reflecting on our censors in Australia and I am not reflecting on those who have made genuine efforts to modify R-certificate material from overseas to bring it into the MA18+ category, but I suspect that over the years games on the margin have, because of the inability to classify them at a higher level, got through. Games that cannot be seen by children overseas in that 15- to 18-year age group can be seen in Australia. I think the introduction of this new category gives the censors a clear line in the sand, and parents and others will know that to a certain point it is legitimate but beyond that point it is hands off. It is very important because in other countries there are 17-years-of-age and 18-years-of-age rules. The EU, the UK and the United States have all taken this matter in hand. It is appropriate that Australia should be doing likewise.

It is important that adults be able to see material in an adult context. It is some years old now, but there was a film called Don't look now, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. It was the story of a young couple that had two young girls, one of whom drowned. It was about the impact that had on the family. The father restored old buildings, including cathedrals, and worked in Venice. In the film the husband and wife, after many years of grieving in Venice, have a sex scene. It was in context, it was between husband and wife, it was tasteful and it showed the eventual relief of the grief that had dogged them for the time since they had lost their daughter. I think something in that context is not going to offend any adult but it is not something to which you expose some young person, especially one in the impressionable years of the middle teens. So it is with games. Games are a very important medium. I have seen one report that says up to 90 per cent of homes have games machines of one sort of another. Inevitably kids have access to these and, also inevitably, they play games that are brought into the home, some by the kids themselves and some by the parents. As I have said, some games getting through to the 15- to 18-year-old age group were probably classified as R certificate overseas and are being seen in Australia.

I also think that, while with our censorship we look at things like explicit and gratuitous sex, violence, drug taking and extreme violence, sometimes one that gets under the radar—and it should not—is demeaning of women. I remember that when we had the NVE debate here we were given a sample film to have a look at. I might add that those who saw it did not stay in the room more than two minutes. It was quite obvious what it was: pornography dressed up. I thought the wrenching back of a girl's head while she was being demeaned added a touch of sickening flavour to something that purported to be a new and enlightened form of classification.

So I repeat my plea to the government and the censors that this become a new line in the sand, a standard whereby adults can see adult games in an adult context free of the prying eyes of children and, equally, parents can, with a lot more relaxation, know that films, especially those in the G, PG and perhaps M classifications, according to the age of the children, are reasonably safe for their children to see. I think it is also good that with our classifications—although we do not do a lot of classifying in the printed field—we have uniformity in cinema, in videos and now in games that the public can look to with some confidence. For that reason I support the bill.