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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3155

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (10:12): I certainly welcome the opportunity this morning to speak on the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012. I join with all members of the House in agreeing that this is much needed reform, and we certainly look forward to the elements of this bill taking effect so that we can have greater confidence as we carry on into the future. We would have greater confidence that the young people and, in fact, the adults of this country are properly advised and, in appropriate cases, properly protected from some of the online computer game content that abounds in the world at this point.

A common theme when I go around and speak particularly to primary school classes in the electorate of Cowan, and senior classes, is that so many young people are keen to get into this industry. When we see the figure of $2.5 billion that is likely to be generated in the economy by the computer game industry by 2015, it is not a surprise, particularly for those of us who see that there are young people so keen to get into the industry to create games. As we know, there are a fairly large number of computer game laboratories generating these games around the country. When Apple informs us that they get upwards of 20,000 applications a month for games to be registered with them, it really does show that there is certainly demand and people are willing to satisfy supply.

That being said, it is a little bit of a mystery to me why some people are interested in some of the games that are produced. There are extremely violent games and there are games produced that have sexual content, which I think many people would have objections to. It really does come as a surprise that there is demand for such games. Whilst I will speak a little bit more about the differences between MA15+, R18+ and refused classification, what I would say is that greater protection, greater knowledge and greater information is long overdue in all cases with regard to such games.

It is the case that, when this country has had the highest classification of MA15+, there have been substantiated allegations that there are some games that have been, as has been said, shoehorned into that category. Possibly there has been a bit of a liberal interpretation of the categorisation. Some games that we might think should not ordinarily be allowed to be accessed by those 15 years and above have actually made it into that category. Others of course have been refused classification, and I think that is good. What we will have with this legislation is that, for games that I think were MA15+ but probably should have been adult 18 and above only, we will have the opportunity to push those sort of games upwards, I would imagine. Also, where some of these games have had slight modifications made to them so that those that would have had R18+ classification in others parts of the world have been dragged down into the MA15+, but again with material in them that I think a lot of people would find quite concerning, there will be the ability to look again at those games and push them into R18+ classification. That is most definitely a good thing.

With regard to the classification of restricted 18+, what we will see is the restriction of sale, hire, display, advertisement and, in overall terms, warnings to parents. I am a parent, with two girls, aged 13 and nine, who are into games—definitely not the sorts of games that might have those classifications. I suspect Moshi Monsters is probably not going to see a categorisation above G. Angry Birds may be a little more severe, but is not going to be in this sort of category. I certainly hope that we will never see anything like an MA15+ game or anything worse than that in my house. But it is the case that the ability to provide warnings to parents on computer games through this legislation is very important. The alarm bells certainly do ring when you are a parent and you see something with an R on the front of it, and there is a difference between seeing those and M category movies. When that is transposed over to computer games, if parents see R18+ on the front of games they should be rightly concerned and should certainly examine them and find out whether their children are attempting to buy such video games or they are in the possession of their children.

It does, however, still come down to vigilance by the parents of those under 18 in keeping an eye on what is going on, so they can look at and examine things and make decisions if they find their children possess those games in their house and they have a concern that needs to be dealt with. But, as we also know through the work that has taken place over recent years and has been particularly noted by a House committee recently, the vast majority of gamers are actually young adults, I would say—around the age of 32—and many of them, 47 per cent, happen to be women now. What we are dealing with here is certainly freedom of choice. It comes down to adults being able to make informed choices. If they wish to buy R18+ games, that should certainly be the case. But I would always warn and advise parents to keep an eye on those under 18 and what is in their possession or what they are attempting to buy.

This legislation brings us into line with comparable nations in the Western world. It is bizarre that we have not had a classification. In Australia we have had classifications of MA15+ or refused classification, but there has been nothing in between. That has singled us out as being different from the rest of the Western world. So it is important that we have the R18+ classification, and I certainly welcome that. That is consistent with international standards.

It is a very important step forward. I think we will see that this is legislation which is non-controversial, and that is why we see it here in the Federation Chamber. But I would say that, while there is the provision in the bill that a game cannot be reclassified within two years of its having been classified, it is important that, should people have concerns about games currently rated MA15+, they consider trying to have those games reclassified to R18+. That would be a positive step forward. Currently there are games rated MA15+ which are concerning and not appropriate for those under the age of 18. Those games should be reviewed, and this legislation will allow that to happen. At the same time the classifying authorities should not be afraid of refusing classification where the content is beyond the point of classification. There are some really bizarre levels of violence and sexual content out there that I think should still be refused classification, and most people probably agree with that.

I welcome the introduction of this bill into the House. I look forward to it being passed and the classification R18+ adding some real value in this country and providing greater certainty and help for parents and gamers across Australia.