The Australian federal government is hopeful that consensus on the issue of R18+ videogame ratings can be found, but it's also ready to knock a few skulls and crack the whip if it can't.
Australia is the only nation in the Western world that doesn't have a "mature" rating for videogames, thanks primarily to the fact that any changes to the law that would allow for one to be created must be unanimously approved by the attorney general of every state in the nation. Michael Atkinson famously held up the process for years during his tenure as attorney general for South Australia, yet even though he's been out of the picture for a year the process remains stalled.
Now the Australian federal government has weighed into the matter, giving the Standing Committee of Attorneys General until July to get its act together and warning that the feds will go to Plan B if it doesn't. "We're becoming the laughingstock of the developed world, where we're the only country that doesn't have an R18 classification level for videogames," Home Affairs Minister Brenan O'Connor told ABC News. (Theirs, not ours.)
"I foreshadow that if there is not a consensus around this issue, the Commonwealth will certainly be considering other options because we cannot continue to have an outdated classification system that's actually, in my view, causing harm to young people," he continued. "I'm not going to let this matter end because it's too important to allow one or two jurisdictions to stop the majority of jurisdictions in this country moving on an important reform. But can I say my very strong preference is to have consensus around the table in July."
The vast majority of Australians have come out in favor of an R18+ game rating but there are still groups in the country that are dead-set against it, most notably the Australian Christian Lobby, which on March 17 reiterated its position that it "does not accept the argument that introducing an R18+ category for games would protect children as it would be naive to think that children would not get a hold of them." Yet Australia's system as it stands actually risks exposing children to more inappropriate content than those of other nations, as games that would otherwise be rated for mature audiences end up squeezed into the MA15+ category.
The next meeting of Australia's Standing Committee of Attorneys General is scheduled to take place on July 21 and 22.