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Australia: All states sign off on final R18+ content guidelines

Friday, 4th November 2011 02:40 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Federal minister for home affairs Brendan O’Connor has announced the final revision to classification content guidelines, ahead of the introduction of a national R18+ ratings category for video games.

The minister outlined some of the changes to ratings categories made by the new content guidelines, which are available on the Classification website.

“The major changes in the final guidelines are to do with violence and coarse language. Games with strong violence and aggressive strong language are no longer permitted in MA15+,” O’Connor explained, speaking with Gamespot.

The introduction of an R18+ ratings category may allow some currently refused content to be released in Australia, but in the main, it will keep more extreme content out of underage hands.

“Any game with sexual violence will be refused classification. Sexual violence is refused classification now, and it will be refused classification once R18+ passes,” the minister affirmed.

Although the states are now officially in agreement on the guidelines, they will not come into effect until new legislation is approved by parliament.

“I am confident we’ll have R18+ passed in the first few months of next year. I know some people are concerned about the time but it’s been going on for a decade, and we’ve made great progress. Everyone is working towards legislating for change.”

The proposed new ratings category and guidelines became a subject of much discussion yesterday after a heavily criticised Seven News report last night in which NSW attorney general Greg Smith commented that he wanted the MA15+ rated Grand Theft Auto IV to be banned, seemingly in direct opposition to his vote to introduce an R18+ ratings category at the July Standing Committee.

“That was just his reaction after watching the game. The point is that he wants games with extreme gratuitous violence or gratuitous sexual violence to remain in the Refused Classification category,” a representative from the politician’s office told Kotaku when asked about the strange flip-flop.

“The AG doesn’t want any dilution of the Refused Classification category for games, but remains fully committed to an R18+ rating for video games.”

Also speaking to Kotaku, O’Connor dismissed Smith’s comments, saying that while he believes the attorney general has some valid concerns, those concerns relate to content currently and likely to remain covered by the Refused Classification category.

“There will continue to be material that is Refused Classification but some of what he is referring to is already Refused Classification. [Some of] the games he refers to are already banned,” O’Connor noted.

Australia has had no ratings category higher than MA15+ for video games, which has occasionally resulted in games failing to release locally, or being censored. The classifications system has been heavily criticised for inconsistent application and outdated content guidelines.

In July, the nations attorneys general voted in favour of the introduction of a new adult rating, on the understanding that current ratings guidelines would be reviewed, a process which concludes today.

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