Abbott not aware of R18+ games issue, but will review if elected

Opposition leader grilled at town hall style meeting

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott tonight said he would be happy to examine the issue of an R18+ classification rating for video games if the Coalition won the upcoming Federal Election, although he admitted he did not know there had been a debate on the issue.

"If what happens with video games is not roughly analogous to what happens in other areas, that seems silly," Abbott said in response to a question from an audience member on the Daily Telegraph's leadership question and answer session at Sydney's Rooty Hill RSL tonight.

"Instinctively I'm with you, and it's something I'd be happy to look at, if we are in Government," he added. "If you think there is a problem, I would be happy to look at it."

State and Federal Attorneys-General have for some time stood in the way of lobbying efforts by the video game industry and gamers themselves to create an R18+ classification for Games in Australia. The lack of such a system has meant that a number of games have been prohibited from being released in Australia, and others – such as Valve's popular Left 4 Dead 2 game -- have had to be modified to remove aspects that the Classification Board has found objectionable.

Former South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson – one of the most vocal opponents of a R18+ classification for games – even found himself facing a challenge in his own seat at the South Australian state election earlier this year from a political party pushing the issue.

However, despite the fact that there is a Federal Government review into the matter ongoing, Abbott admitted he didn't know it had been an issue. "It's not an area that I'm particularly familiar with," he said. "I didn't know there was a problem here."

NBN still an issue

Abbott also faced questions from the audience regarding the Coalition's National Broadband Network policy, which has been broadly pilloried since Tuesday morning when it was announced.

The central planks of the policy are a competitive backhaul network, regional and metropolitan wireless networks and an ADSL enrichment program that will target telephone exchanges without ADSL2+ broadband. Under the Coalition Policy, the NBN will be cancelled and NBN Co broken up and its assets sold to the private sector.

"How can you guarantee it's the best way to advance technologically, because wireless isn't as good?" Macquarie University student Cassie asked Abbott.

The Opposition Leader replied that he would rather not commit to such a "gargantuan expenditure" such as the Gillard Labor Government is planning to with its NBN policy, adding that he might want a really fantastic car, but he "had to buy the car that I can afford".

"If your car is going to break down anyway, why not just spend the money?!" Cassie responded.

Earlier in the evening, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had been asked to respond to Abbott's apparent lack of technical knowledge on the broadband policy – especially his performance on the 7:30 Report last night, when he stated he was "no Bill Gates" and not a tech-head, so couldn't easily go into the details.

Gillard said her criticism with Abbott with respect to the Coalition's policy was not that he didn't know the technical details – her criticism was that the Opposition Leader would cancel the NBN if elected.

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