Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor has told GameSpot AU he wants to resolve the issue of Australia's lack of an adult classification for video games by July this year. With the absence of New South Wales Attorney-General John Hatzistergos from the upcoming SCAG meeting in March preventing ministers from taking a vote on the R18+ for games issue, O'Connor hopes to use the time to dispel any concerns and discuss in detail the soon-to-be-finalized R18+ guidelines.
"It would be optimistic to assume we would even get to the voting stage [on R18+] in March," O'Connor told GameSpot AU. "But we need to resolve this issue one way or another. From the Federal Government's point of view, we'd like the matter determined at the July SCAG meeting, regardless of which way it swings. We canít continue to go back and forth on this. I can only keep presenting the arguments, and by then, all the ministers will be present, and everyone will have had a good chance to look at the issue properly and determine a final position."
For his part, O'Connor believes the upcoming March SCAG meeting will be a good opportunity for ministers to take a closer look at the new guidelines presented and come to a more concrete decision on how to proceed with the R18+ issue. The vote to introduce the guidelines will also be the vote that introduces R18+, something O'Connor is planning for the July SCAG meeting.
"As far as GameSpot AU readers are concerned, we cannot make any sort of decision on the R18+ issue in March. But I am determined to seek to get common ground among every minister to move ahead on this issue; in the end, the Commonwealth's position is that we need an R18+ classification for video games in this country. This is a sound argument insofar as doing the right thing and protecting minors; it is also a reasonable argument as it allows for adults to access material that is accessible by other adults in other countries; and it fits in with evolving changes in technology. So, [R18+ for games] is good public policy, and thatís what Iíll continue to say to people."
Although O'Connor thinks it unlikely, if all state and territory attorneys-general in attendance at the March SCAG meeting show overwhelming support for R18+, the absent jurisdiction (that is, NSW) could be allowed to subsequently affirm their own position after the meeting. However, this is also unlikely because NSW could have a new government after March 26.
"As I understand, the NSW Opposition hasnít made its views clear on R18+. However, if there is a strongly held view that R18+ should be introduced after the March SCAG meeting, I will be impressing this position upon whichever party that wins the NSW election. There will be great pressure on the party to carefully consider SCAG's position if it is recommending changes."
Finally, O'Connor is positive that because all the arguments are in favor of change, Australia could well have an R18+ classification for games before the year is out.
"We canít continue to have an outdated arrangement, which doesnít reflect technological changes, just like we can't continue to deny the rights of adults. We simply canít continue to justify the current arrangement," O'Connor said.
Stay tuned to GameSpot AU as we bring you more news closer to the March 4 SCAG meeting. For more on the issue, visit GameSpot AU's previous coverage.