Government introduces interim legislation for online games classification

Legislation covers online games, smartphone apps

The federal government has introduced new legislation to ensure access to online and mobile phone games will be maintained while a review of the National Classification Scheme in undertaken.

Federal minister for home affairs and justice, Brendan O’Connor, said the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Mobile and Online Computer Games) Bill, takes into account technological developments.

“The current classification system never envisaged the technology powering smartphones, let alone the rapid development of online games or mobile phone apps,” O’Connor said.

“The government is changing the treatment of computer games so that they are treated like other online content, and these changes will allow most mobile phone and online games to be supplied without classification for the next two years, while retaining safeguards to protect children from computer games that are of concern.”

A statement issued by O'Connor's office said that the exemption "will not apply to computer games likely to be refused classification and existing Commonwealth, State and Territory offences will continue to apply to these games."

The review of the National Classification Scheme by the Australian Law Reform Commission was announced in March by Attorney-General Robert McClelland. In September the ALRC released a discussion paper on the scheme.

The federal government in May publicly released new draft guidelines for the classification of video games. The guidelines covered six classifiable elements — themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity — and would allow treatment of these elements in excess of what is currently permissible under the existing maximum MA15+ rating for games.

In July, a meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General endorsed the idea of an R18+ classification for video games. The in principle decision was backed by all states and territories, with the exception of NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, who abstained. Smith later endorsed the introduction of an adults only classification for games.

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