This is a repository of what Australia's various Attorneys-General and other politicians have said - either to us or our members - about the Classification System, and R18+ for games.
|From the office of the ACT Attorney-General|
Dear Mr Doe
Thank you for your email of 21 September 2009. In your email you express your frustration at the absence of an R18+ Classification for Video Games in Australia.
As you are no doubt aware, the ACT participates in the National Classification Scheme for the classification of films, publications and computer games, administered by the Classification Board in accordance with the National Classification Code and Classification Guidelines.
Under the national scheme, computer games can receive a maximum classification of MA15+ (unsuitable for persons under 15 years of age) to be lawfully available in Australia. The unanimous agreement of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Censorship Ministers is required to introduce a new classification category into the National Classification Scheme.
The National Classification Scheme was established following recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission about censorship procedure in 1991. One of the recommendations was the establishment of a legislative framework which would enable the Commonwealth, State and Territories to take a national approach to classification. The Commonwealth, States and Territories entered into the Intergovernmental Agreement on Censorship which underpins the Scheme. This agreement confirms that certain changes ot the Scheme, such as amendments to the National Classification Code and classification guidelines, must be considered and agree to by all Censorship Ministers.
At the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) (Censorship) meeting on 28 March this year, Censorship Ministers considered the issue of introducing an R18+ classification for computer games. At the meeting, Censorship Ministers agrees, amongst other things, to undertake a process of public consultation on the issue, and requested officers to develop a Discussion Paper that canvasses options and seeks submissions on whether an R18+ classification for computer games should be introduced in Australia.
Subject to the agreement of all Censorship Ministers, the Discussion Paper will be released for public consultation in due course.
Your views are important to the process of community consultation that will be undertaken. The discussion paper, which will invite further community consultation, will include research and arguments relating to the proposed R18+ classification for computer games, and an explanation of the Classification Code (the Code).
The Code state that Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:
- adults should be able to read, hear, and see what they want;
- minors should be protected from exposure from material likely to harm or disturb them;
- everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive; and
- the need to take account of community concerns about;
- depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and
- the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.
At the conclusion of the process of community consultation, Censorship Ministers will consider all available information. Any proposal to amend the Code or Guidelines requires the agreement of all Censorship Ministers.
The ACT supports the introduction of an R18+ classification. This classification would ensure that games with adult content are sold only to adults and that the purchasers are fully aware of the content of the games. There is evidence that many people are purchasing games from overseas and over the internet, and because the games are not classified, they may have little or no information to enable them to determine whether this is something they truly want to view or use.
Thank you again for your expression of support on this issue.
Simon Corbell MLA
So there you have it. A completely rational response from someone in full consideration of the facts. Fantastic Mr Corbell, thank you for your response, and your political courage.
Mr Corbell is one of only 3 Attorneys-General to take a public stand on the R18+ issue, out of a total of 9.
Scans of the original letter can be seen here and here.
|From the office of the NSW Attorney-General|
Dear Mr Doe
I refer to your email to the Attorney General, the Honourable John Hatzistergos MLC, seeking his support for an R18+ or adult rating for computer games. The Attorney General has asked me to respond on his behalf.
New classification categories cannot be introduced without the unanimous agreement of all Censorship Ministers. In addition, prior to Ministers considering whether or not to change the Classification Scheme, there must be national consultation on the proposed change.
At their meeting on 17 April 2009, Censorship Ministers noted that the Commonwealth Government intends to release a discussion paper on the R18+ classification for computer games.
It is my understanding that the paper will contain detailed descriptions of the content of various computer games which have been Refused Classification. In order to ensure informed submissions on the issue it is important that people are aware of the kinds of material which may become lawfully available for sale in Australia if an R18+ category were to be introduced for computer games.
Thank you for your letter and I encourage you to make a submission to the Commonwealth Government in response to their Discussion Paper, once it is released.
Thank you for raising this matter with the Attorney General.
Barry Collier MP
Assisting the Attorney General
The original letter can be seen here.
|From the office of the WA Attorney-General|
|To the Attorneys-General - David Doe|
From: David Doe
Date: Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 11:55 PM
Subject: A question on the Classification Act
To: --- Addresses removed, but I sent it to every State and Territory Attorney General ---
To the Attorney General,
I write to you today because I wish to defer to your education and experience on a matter of some import to a large part of the community. I am not a solicitor, nor do I fully understand the machinations of the law, so I am seeking your guidance and I hope that you can educate me on the issue at hand.
Recently, a highly anticipated videogame was refused classification by the Classifcation Board on the grounds that was considered "unsuitable for a minor to see or play;". I agree wholeheartedly with the Classification Board's decision. The game in question, Left4Dead 2 by Valve Software, is graphically violent and is completely unsuitable for a minor to see or play. The problem I have is that it is not unsuitable for an adult to see or play, and that the decision to refuse classification has been made because the guidelines the Classification Board work under simply do not provide the framework for them to classify a videogame with high-level content as R18+.
I am hoping that you could clarify the law with regards to this matter for me, as it is currently my understanding that there is no R18+ rating for videogames as the requirement to amend the classification system to include the R18+ rating for videogames would require all State and Territory Attorneys General to unanimously agree to have the Classification Act amended to include it. It is also my understanding that there is currently only one Attorney General that does not agree to amend the Classification Act in this fashion. Please correct me with your views on the matter if my understanding of the situation is incorrect.
If my understanding is correct, could you please point me to the specific part of the Classification Act, or other relevant legislation, that requires that all Attorneys General be unanimous in their decision to amend the ratings system to include the R18+ rating for videogames? If my understanding is incorrect, could you please advise me how the ratings system could be changed to include the R18+ rating for videogames?
Finally, what are your thoughts on the matter? Do you agree that adults in Australia have the right to view adult-oriented content after it has been rated appropriately by the Classification Board? Do you agree that parents have the responsibility to monitor the content that their children have access to, whether it be film, tv, print or videogame? And lastly, why do you think that we currently do not have an R18+ rating for videogames in Australia?
I wish to thank you in advance for your time, and I eagerly anticipate your reply.
|Concerned Citizen & Mr Atkinson - Part 1|
A concerned citizen wrote to the Member for Croydon regarding the R18+ classification for games. Amazingly, they received a personal response from the Member himself! They then wrote one of the best replies we've read in a while.
What follows is a direct copy and paste (with minor edits to remove the concerned citizen's details).
*Sent:* Saturday, 28 November 2009 8:26 AM
*To:* Croydon EO
*Subject:* R18+ Debate
Here's a quote for you:
"He has made it clear that he is immune to popular public support, scientific research and reasoned argument."
Got to love politicians such as yourself. Democracy only counts during an election year, huh?
Very concerned citizen
On Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 1:55 PM, Croydon EO <Croydon@parliament.sa.gov.au> wrote:
Dear Mr Anonynous
If you would like a considered reply to your email, please supply me with a home address (a street address, not a p.o. box) so that I might check it against the electoral roll.
I aks for this information because most of the emails I receive on this topic are crank, abusive and hoax emails. Anonymous emails, such as yours, are crank emails.
When I research and write a reply, I want to send it to a real person at a real address, not an electronic hydra or phantom.
For me, every year is an election year. In 2002 I stood against an R18+ classification for computer games. At the next election, in 2006, I recived a 6 p.c. swing towards me in my electorate and achieved 76.6 p.c. of the two party preferred vote. This is the highjest vote my party has received in this area since my party was created in 1891. The Liberals got 18 p.c. of the vote. I'm grateful for the support the Liberal Party has given me for my stand on this. There are more Liberal M.Ps supporting my stance than Labor M.Ps.
Do get back to me on 21 March, 2010 and tell me how your Gamers4Croydon candidate went in the election. At last count three people in my electorate supported your position of R18+ games. I'm sure there are more.
Of course, you won't get back to me.
Date: Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 2:37 PM
Subject: Re: R18+ Debate
To: Croydon EO <Croydon@parliament.sa.gov.au>
First up, I would like to suggest that you use your spell-checker tool when writing emails. ' Anonynous' = it's actually anonymous.
Secondly, why is there an R18+ rating for every other medium except for video games? There are movies like Wolf Creek, Saw IV (re-rated on appeal), 8MM and 9 Songs, not to mention TV series such as Rome and Body Language that are rated R18+...
I take it then that by your stance, you're perfectly ok with high level impact violence, rape and murder being shown on countless cinemas around the country...but when it comes to DIGITISED and UN-REALISTIC violence, you put your foot down? What about literature that depicts the same? It's perfectly ok for me to go down to my local Borders store and purchase a book that does nothing to spare the public's imagination? Where such violent scenes of physical abuse or rape are written in vivid detail?
What about R18+ or X18+ pornography? It is currently legal to purchase and view such material. Would you like me to depict and describe to you what is in such content?
Wolf Creek has no elements of the 'living dead' or 'zombies' or 'electronic hydra or phantom', yet depicts such violence, fear and blood...
Can you please explain to me your logic and how you managed to substantiate your stance? You seem to have left logic at the bus stop, scratching its head with rationality buried in its bag.
Also, anonymous emails are not crank emails. They are just that...anonymous. Concerned citizens such as myself that for our own reasons, do not wish to provide contact details. Crank emails are those which have no context, no substance. They do not back themselves up with evidence and more so than not, the language and structure would be poor.
As you can tell, I am educated. I keep an open mind. I'm not opposed to gays or lesbians getting married and I am from a multi-cultural background.
As for my details against the electoral roll...the 2007 Federal Election was the first one I ever voted in. After seeing what I have helped place into power and how I have assisted your party, I can only tell you how deeply ashamed I am that I voted Labor. It was a mistake. Something I wish everyday that I could take back and change. That is why I said that democracy only counts in an election year. When there is no election, the public cannot do anything to change the government. They can only march, write protests and blog. Though these do nothing to change your minds.
Now that I think about it, I would have rather been fined that vote and assist the Liberals or Labor gain power.
It is my opinion as a tax paying citizen - that as long as people show legal proof of age (as is done with liquor and cigarettes), R18+ games should be allowed freely. It is my understanding that we are one of very few countries to not have such a system in place.
There are far worse things being shown on TV, being showed in magazines, books and throughout packed cinemas around Australia.
|Concerned Citizen & Mr Atkinson - Part 2|
Concerned Citizen followed up his previous emails to the Member for Croydon, and unbelievably elicited another response! Although this one is as you'll see, much, much shorter.
Full text below, with the usual edits for anonymity, etc
Sent: Sunday, 29 November 2009 6:34 PM
To: Croydon EO <Croydon@parliament.sa.gov.au>
Subject: Re: R18+ Debate
Dear Mr. Atkinson,
I would like to add some further comments to my previous email.
Once again, I would like to point out where you spell checker would have been most useful - "This is the highjest vote..." = it's 'highest'.
Also, I asked my mother the following question, word for word: "Do you believe that having an R18+ rating for everything except video games makes any sort of sense?" Her response: "No, it's makes absolutely no sense at all."
My mother is not a computer person at all. I don't think you can fully appreciate how little she understands or comprehends anything related to computers. She has never played a video game (on anything) in her life; she frequently asks for my assistance with her laptop and the DVD player and does not understand the internet nor how it works.
At her previous school, out of a staff of over 100, she would be frequently seen writing her reports with a fountain pen and ink. 95%+ of the other teachers would be using Microsoft Word templates.
She is however very well educated, holds multiple diplomas and degrees, received a scholarship to Melbourne University and has taught English, History and Literature for many years.
Whenever she makes a comment on a political matter, it carries alot of weight. Not just for me, but for those around her. If someone such as herself makes such a comment concerning your agenda, imagine how many other people would agree with her when asked?
I would like to continue discussing and debating this issue with you. You have certainly piqued my interest in this matter for which I have begun to fully educate myself on. If I were to provide you with contact details, would you be willing to continue this discussion formally?
There are additional matters that I would like to point your eyes towards. Please view the donation records for Gamers4Croydon - http://www.gamers4croydon.org/donate
As you are sure to notice, there are *many* people who are willing to pledge financial support for a cause in direct opposition to your own. One donation for this grass-roots campaign even reached $500! Amazing!
Lastly, I would like to address your closing statement in your previous email - "Of course, you won't get back to me." I believe I have shown you that I did get back to you. Not once, but twice now. You however, have failed to 'get back to me'.
Do get back to me by December 4th and tell me what your comments, statements and opinions are to this email and my previous one to you.
PS - please read the following comments about your campaign / stance: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2009/01/r18_rating_is_a_risk_to_australian_children_says_minister/
From: Croydon EO <Croydon@parliament.sa.gov.au>
Date: Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 7:10 PM
Subject: FW: R18+ Debate
Anonymous emails are crank emails. The correspondence is closed.
Wow. Just, wow.
There are really no words.
Good thing I tell everyone at the ballot box exactly who I'm voting for by signing my name and address on the ballot slips, otherwise they'd all be counted as crank votes and ignored.
In seriousness though; If you do ever get the chance to read this Mr. Atkinson, I implore you, just implement the R18+ rating for videogames in Australia. Imagine how much time you and your staffers would free up by not having gamers emailing you every day voicing their disappointment, frustration and anger. Imagine saving the thousands of sheets of paper printing that recent 6 page letter must have used. Imagine saving the taxpayers all the money on postage when posting those letters. How much more time could you devote to your family, your career and your electorate if you implemented the rating and ushered Australia into the 21st century?
This isn't about being stubborn, or mindlessly sticking to something you might have said in the early noughties; it's really about forgiveness. Everyone clamouring for the rating would forgive you once it gets implemented, especially if you were instrumental in its implementation. You have a great opportunity to turn things around, re-write history and be a champion for free speech, instead of the way things are going which, honestly, doesn't have you painted in the most positive of lights despite your numerous other achievements.
Here's hoping we can all work together for a brighter, more prosperous and progressive future for our country.
r1nce / David Doe
|To Mr Atkinson, re: dirty tricks|
Below we have the missive sent to Mr Atkinson from a Gamers4Croydon supporter, regarding Mr Atkinson's borderline defamatory attack on the party.
Personal details were provided, but have been removed.
Dear Mr Atkinson,
As a Video Game producer and supporter of Gamers4croydon I am getting sick of your slander against those who identify as gamers.
In an interview with Gamespot, it is claimed you have said: "I assume the Gamers4Croydon campaign will involve criminal activities and dirty tricks, which is what I've come to expect from gamers,"
I wonder, Mr Atkinson ,would they resort to criminal activities like slander and defamation like you have?
Would they resort to threats and lies like you have?
Would they refuse Freedom of Information requests to hide their dealings with crooked entrepreneurs like you have?
Would they resort to making unlawful laws like you have?
I wonder, Mr Atkinson, if they could possibly come up with anything worse than you've already done?
After all, it is you who cost the South Australian taxpayer over $200,000 in legal fees this year alone, not to mention the cost of having your illegal and unconstitutional law overturned, which is estimated to cost over a million dollars.
Believe me, if nothing else, the people of Croydon are going to be reminded of these things when they go to vote.
Because you may be right, people in Croydon might not be concerned about an R18+ for videogames, but I'll bet my controller they are concerned about an inept and shady politician who costs them millions of dollars a year.
|Dissent within the ALP|
It's not just G4C members that have been offended by Mr Atkinson's unwarranted attacks on gamers. A longtime supporter of the ALP sent us a copy of the letter they sent to the SA branch of the ALP.
To Whom It May Concern,
I am compelled to register my offence to the Hon. Michael Atkinson's recent comments in an interview with the website - Gamespot.
In discussing competing party, Gamers4Croydon, Mr. Atkinson claimed he expected them to use "underhanded" and "criminal" tactics against him in the upcoming election. If the irony or double-standards are lost on Mr. Atkinson and the SA Branch of the ALP, I might point out that he has just used these very tactics in a pre-emptive strike against his competitor.
He then goes on to claim that criminal behaviour is what he "expects" from gamers. I cannot begin to tell you how personally offensive this broad, sweeping comment is. Amongst many things, I consider myself a gamer, or at least, a video game aficionado... I am also a proud, hard working citizen of this country and an ALP supporter. I have never committed a crime, nor felt the need to undermine another person by insinuating as such.
Mr. Atkinson's comments are disappointing, and I dare say, quite embarrassing for your ordinarily beautiful state. I am aware he would receive an overwhelming amount of mail from incensed gamers - some of which I'm sure does not help counter his arguments against an r18+ rating. Though I believe Mr. Atkinson should consider his position of influence more responsibly in this respect.
'Gamers' (as they are branded) are considered so as they are passionate about their pastime - just like any film buff, veracious reader, foodie, wine connoisseur... the list goes on. Mr. Atkinson knows full well that these comments will enrage anybody who is passionate about gaming and incite a scathing, passionate response. It is a childish, sad and terribly manipulative tactic, and I would expect more from someone representing such a sophisticated seat.
Mr. Atkinson's lauding of his position of power amongst his constituents and his disrespectful sidelining of gamers' opinions, gaming culture and people in support of an R18+ rating for video games has long become tiresome. We have gone beyond the point of an R18+ rating proposal now. This is Mr. Atkinson relishing the limelight and behaving like an out-of-control dictator, mad with power and an unfair grudge to bear.
Shame on you, Michael. I ask you to cease offending people and start doing some good in the world. Whether you win or lose in this challenge, I very much hope you will one day learn a lesson in how to treat your fellow Australians with decency, fairness and above all, respect.
|From the Member for La Trobe|
The first response we've been made aware of to our "Contact your Federal MP" letter comes from the Liberal(!) Member for La Trobe, Jason Wood MP. It's a bit short (and we wonder if perhaps he's received a few copies of the email so far), but we're definitely glad of the support and interested to see what happens next.
Thanks for your email about this issue.
I agree with you.
I will write to the Minister on your behalf raising the concerns you very clearly argue.
I will write to you as soon as I receive a response.
Thanks again for your clearly argued email.
|From the Member for Lyne|
Paul W. used our widget to contact his local MP, the Independent Member for Lyne, Robert Oakeshott. Paul sent us the refreshingly non-form-letter response to share with you.
From: Oakeshott, Robert (MP) <Robert.Oakeshott.MP@aph.gov.au>
Date: Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 11:51 AM
Subject: RE: R18+ Classification for Videogames in Australia.
To: Paul W
Paul, a sensible and well presented case. Thanks! Let me have a look and do some further research and I'll come back to you on what is possible. I am thinking a private members bill into the parliament, but that is without having looked at the details. R
|From the Member for Hindmarsh|
Ben got in touch with his local member, Steve Georganas, a South Australian Labor MP. Ben got an encouraging response.
Thank you for your email.
It is unusual that a unanimous decision needs to be reached by State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers. This certainly suggests decisions made will reflect the lowest common denominator, and not necessarily reflect the views of a majority of States or, ultimately, a majority of Australians.
For this reason I agree with you that the current process is not representative.
I have written to the Attorney-General explaining both your concerns and your request that the Classification Act and the Intergovernmental Agreement be amended to enable changes to be made to the classification architecture without a unanimous vote.
I will forward any response I receive from the Attorney-General when it becomes available.
Thank you again for writing to me about this fundamental issue.
Steve Georganas MP
Federal Member for Hindmarsh