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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3165

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (10:59): I would like to echo the words of the member for Chifley. What an industry this is. I rise to speak on the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012. I do so in the full knowledge that I know absolutely nothing about the modern computer game. I know absolutely nothing about gaming. It is completely and utterly beyond me why people even bother with it. My level of gaming was playing Asteroids down at the cafe at lunchtime putting 20c in the machine. Asteroids was my game of choice. You blew up rocks on a black and white screen. I could quite happily pass half an hour playing that.

We have an Xbox 3, a PlayStation 3, a Wii and an iTouch at home, which my son, my wife and my daughters play. They could be sitting on there watching people kill themselves—I would not know. And that is half the problem with the way that gaming is these days. I have a 10-year-old son. He is forever gaming. He loves them. The best thing about it as a parent is that it keeps them quiet; they are out of the road. That is one of the dangers with gaming. I know of families with children who are not even teenagers yet who are playing Grand Theft Auto. Because they are in their room by themselves and they are quiet, that is okay. That will play out in other ways down the track.

Getting back to this bill, this will allow games that are deemed inappropriate for children to be sold in Australia with the new category 'restricted to adults'. As the member for Chifley said, when I was first approached about and made aware of this bill I thought that it was about kids. But gaming is not about children anymore. Our lives have changed. We have become more sedentary. We have become more stay-at-home. These games are a way of enjoying time at home. It is a personal choice. As the member for Chifley said, most of these gamers are over 18. The average age of gamers is now 30. There are some great benefits there.

This bill will align the computer game classification system with the more commonly understood film and television classification systems. Far from allowing more violent and inappropriate computer games into the country, this bill will ensure that kids are not able to buy and play video games that they should not be playing. It will also allow people who are over 18 to get games that are currently banned in Australia. At the moment, the highest classification is MA15+. This means that some of the extremely violent and explicit games are not allowed into the country, while many more that should be restricted to just adults are allowed in and sold to people who are under 18 because their current restriction is just MA15+. Experience shows us that very few games made for adults are restricted from being sold in Australia, meaning that most are given the MA15+ rating. Far from being a system that prevents minors from playing inappropriate games, it is enabling them to do just that.

I know kids who are playing Grand Theft Auto and those sorts of games. That will play into how children behave at school and those sorts of things. I was talking to a principal at one of my local schools. People want to send their kids to his school because there they will be disciplined. He said, though, that if parents are not doing it at home they cannot expect it to be done there. We are seeing a shift in the way that parents parent. When I was a child, the last thing that you would do if you got in trouble at school was to tell your parents, because automatically your parents' default position would be to side with the teacher. Now we are seeing more and more that the parent is siding with the child and chastising the teacher in front of the child, thus reinforcing the child's position. These parents have disengaged by letting these kids watch these sorts of games and then the kids come to school and play that out through their language or actions. And then the parents reinforce that attitude by chastising the teacher. And then we wonder why 22 per cent of all teachers leave the industry after only three years. There are things at play here that we have to be very careful about.

Aligning the video game classification with that of movies will also help parents to stop their kids playing games that are not appropriate. Most people are familiar with the movie classification system, as movies are much more mainstream than video games, particularly for parents. Many parents do not realise that MA15+ is the highest classification that we have for video games and that therefore games with that rating may not be appropriate for teenagers. This bill corrects that problem. That is a positive thing. As the member for Chifley said, the number of members who are speaking on this bill is a testament to how serious this is and what an industry this has become. Finally, this bill is about fairness. As I said before, video games are not the domain of kids and teenagers. Seventy per cent of computer gamers are actually over the age of 25. Nobody wants to see violent and explicit games in the hands of kids, but gamers who are over the age of 18 have every right to play these games if they choose to. Given that such a majority of the gaming community are adults, it is only right that we allow them to buy these games in this country.

I hate to keep going back to when I was child but, when I was a child, my grandmother would take us to the movies. We would see Pinocchio or The Love Bug or those sorts of things, which were strictly G rated and strictly for kids. Even now, the G rated films are different. We saw Snow White, the cartoon. There is nothing in there. There is no subtext or anything like that. But if you go and watch any Pixar picture now, because it is such a big industry, because the graphics are there, because so many parents are going with their kids, there is so much more in there for the parent. There are jokes. If you watch any of the Pixar movies, or the latest kids' films, you will find the parents laughing at one stage and the kids laughing at another. There are so many little things in there for popular culture.

As a parent, I have been concerned about violent and graphic content that has become common and accepted in video games. There are far too many games, despite their content, which are easily accessible to young teenagers. The absence of an 'adults only' category has clearly not helped us restrict this access to inappropriate games. The introduction of the 18+ category is a common-sense measure to help us properly address this issue. That is the message that video gamers in my electorate have been telling me. We are one of the last countries to get on board with this measure and it is time that we did.

The North Queensland Cowboys spend so much time training. Their day is structured around training. They get to go home. Every one of them is a gamer. Every one of them has an Xbox 3, a PlayStation 4, an Xbox 360 et cetera. These guys all game. They are all adults, all grown up and none of them go out and kill people. So we have to make sure that we protect these sorts of things.

I was contacted by Gavin Dwyer about the concern that the gaming community in Townsville has about this issue. They want to make sure that the legislation is passed. They have been fighting for this for years. I want to ensure that it finally gets through. He reiterated to me that video gamers are not just kids. That seems to have been the consistent theme through this whole debate. There are far more adults and there are no reasons that they should not be able to decide for themselves what is and what is not appropriate to play. I also spoke to Rob from Gametraders in Townsville about this bill and about the impact, from his perspective, that it would have on the gaming retailers. This is only allowing stores to give gamers what they want, which can only be good for business. As he pointed out, in a difficult retail environment this gives them the freedom of choice to provide a product that adult gamers want to buy and that, as adults, they should be able to. As the member for Cowan said this morning in his contribution to the debate, Apple is receiving applications for over 20,000 games a month to be registered on their network—that is, 20,000 games a month across the world. We are talking about a major industry here. Mr Dwyer said, 'People like me have been left behind by it, but there is no reason why everyone else should have to pay for it.' He also said that no game shop wants to see generally bad and inappropriate games go through, but most of the customers in his shops are adults and want to be given access to the games, regardless of whether they think children should be able to play them. This bill simply allows for that.

I would like to touch a little on the difference between an adult and a child when we look at things such as movies or games, at the actual violence and the stylisation of violence that goes on here. I love Quentin Tarantino films and the stylised violence of Reservoir Dogs. I just love that film, irrespective of whether the guy ends up getting his ear cut off. It is a very nasty piece of film but, because the whole thing is set in this quasi comedy, in this quasi surrealness, you know that it is not real. I also watched Once Were Warriors, the New Zealand film. There is a scene where he belts his wife. I found that the most disturbing bit of film I have ever seen in my life. It really upset me—the towelling he gave his wife was just so real. He sent her away and then in the morning she comes out with her face so puffed up and bad and he says, 'Geez, go and clean yourself up, woman,' and just walked out of the room. Those are the sorts of things where I, as an adult, can make the differentiation. But when it comes to games, I think we have to understand that people see things differently—what we see as stylised violence someone else may see as an absolute graphic display of violence and destruction that is going to feed into people and we are going to have mass murderers walking around the place. It does not happen because people can make that difference and correlation.

Take shows like The Simpsons. My son loves The Simpsons. He does not get half of The Simpsons; he does not get what they are about. All he sees is colour and movement. I love The Simpsons because there is so much popular culture in there, and so many references to the movies I have seen. Every night it is a quiz to go in and watch The Simpsons so that you can see where the links are, what they are trying to say, what that subtext is. Those are the sorts of things that I think gamers are very much aware of.

When it comes to this bill, it is about time we started treating people like adults. If it is an R18+ they should be able to make that decision for themselves. It is not so much trying to buy condoms at the pharmacy when you are 15—someone may have told me about that once upon a time. It is about making a conscious decision about the way you want to play your life. But for the kids who are playing these games instead of other things I just say this: instead of playing a game can we just go outside and kick a ball? When you are going in a car can you just look out the window? I am always reminded of the story told by Billy Connolly—Billy Connolly's World Tour of Scotland. He and Pamela had the kids with them. On their last night they stayed in this castle in Edinburgh and they built a great big dragon's nest and they had a bonfire and the sparks were flying up into the night—only Billy Connolly can tell the story. The next day when they were going back to the United States he sat the kids down—they had been all over Scotland for 16 weeks and done and seen amazing things—and asked them what was the best part of the trip. The kids got into a huddle and then came back and said, 'Sesame Street'. They had the DVDs of Sesame Street in the Tarago as they were driving around and that was the best part of it. He said he felt like he had just wasted 16 weeks of his life trying to educate his kids. I was driving to Ayr recently and for only the second time since I have been in Townsville I saw a brolga, Townsville's emblem. It is a beautiful flighted bird; it is the largest flighted bird in Australia. I looked out the window and said, 'Look, kids—a brolga.' They were all just sitting there gaming away. Anything could have happened. So, look out the window, go and kick a ball, go and throw something, go and play with someone, go for a swim, do something with your lives other than just gaming. I recommend the bill to the House.