Censorship Ministers at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) today agreed to public consultation on the issue of R18+ computer games.

Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls welcomed the agreement by SCAG to consult on whether an R18+ classification for computer games should be introduced into the National Classification Scheme.

Mr Hulls said there had been community interest for some time about reviewing the current classification scheme, which only allows computer games with a maximum classification of MA15+ to be lawfully available in Australia.

“I believe that censorship laws should strike an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and community concerns about depictions that condone or incite violence, as well as the principle that minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them,” he said.

Mr Hulls said an analysis of literature and research on the issue compiled by Victoria suggested there were persuasive arguments to support the introduction of an ‘adult only’ category of computer game classification in Australia.

“While computer games have predominantly been considered the domain of children, the most up-to-date research indicates a steadily growing trend in adult consumers of the product, with the current average age of gamers reported to be 28 years,” he said.

“It seems inconsistent that in Australia, adults are allowed to view ‘adult only’ films which have been classified R18+ by the Classification Board, but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.

“With the increasing convergence between films and games, the different approach to classification principles is difficult to sustain.”

Mr Hulls said it was anticipated that should an R18+ classification for computer games be introduced, games containing extreme violence, explicit sexual material, instruction in crime or characters using illegal drugs would continue to be refused classification.

He said as with films with high level content, ‘adult only’ classified games would not be intended for use by a minor.

“Recent technological advances mean that with the latest generation of gaming platforms, parents can control their child’s access to appropriate gaming material,” he said.

Mr Hulls said it would be only after public consultation had been completed that Censorship Ministers would consider whether or not it was appropriate to introduce an R18+ classification for computer games in Australia.

“At the moment, Australia is out of step with the rest of the developed world on this issue,” he said.