Our gaming lawyer puts Queensland's recent R18+ legislation under the microscope.
By Patrick Vuleta on November 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm
In a century a long time ago, far, far away—1922, to be precise, the Queensland senate voted itself out of existence. After several failed attempts to abolish the State’s upper house, our benevolent leader persuaded the Queensland Governor to hand his party a ruling majority, allowing him to abolish the senate.
And this is perfectly fine with most Queenslanders, who, without fail—vote overwhelming majorities into Parliament every election. We like our dictatorships.
So that’s why, today, we know the R18+ games legislation introduced to the Queensland Parliament a week ago, isn’t going to change. And it’s just as well, because out of all the R18+ laws… it actually makes sense.
No additional classification review
The new Queensland laws are mostly just offences and penalties. The actual R18+ classification scheme in Queensland will be R18+ games are whatever the Australian Classification Board says.
Unlike South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory, Queensland does not have the power to reclassify games if they do not like the Commonwealth’s decision. This has not changed with the new laws.
Must not show R18+ games to children
The main part of the Queensland laws is the prohibition on showing, or selling, R18+ games to minors. If you do so, you could be fined up to $10,000.
But this is not absolute.
You can show an R18+ game in public… if no minors are present. You can also sell an R18+ game to a minor if you reasonably believe them to be 18 (“I swear she was old enough…”).
Compared to the rather blanket bans put on the public showing of R18+ games used by Western Australia, this is quite sensible.
An emphasis on responsible parenting
A welcome inclusion in the new laws is the emphasis on responsible parenting. You can show R18+ games to minors in private—if you have the consent of the parents. In reality, I imagine “consent” to be little more than “Yeah you can go over to Tim’s house to play that new game”. But at least it gives parents the power to decide if their children can or can’t play games.
In line with this, there are no prohibitions on what minors can or cannot play with their parents’ consent. If mum or dad says yes, it’s fair game.
It’s all up to the Commonwealth
The Queensland R18+ legislation’s about as sensible as we could hope for. It simply restricts public showings and sales of games judged to be R18+ by the Commonwealth. Which seems reasonable. Whether this gives adults the right to play what they want to largely depends on how the Commonwealth applies the R18+ guidelines. In general:
- R18+ games can include high-impact violence.
- R18+ games cannot include high-impact violence that is frequently gratuitous or offensive.
- R18+ games cannot include explicit sex, illicit drug use, or reward sexual violence.
Whether games showing violence, sex, or drugs will be sold in Queensland depends entirely on the Australian Classification Board. This also holds true for the other states that do not allow the decisions of the boards to be changed—so any state other than South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.
But is there any point?
In many ways, gaming’s a scapegoat. The simple reality is that much of what would be ‘harmful to children’ is already sold in Australia—unclassified and unenforced. According to the Australian Law Reform Commission, this is for practical reasons as much as any other…
“Any significant increase in the amount of X 18+ content going to the Classification Board would also mean Board members would have to spend a disturbingly large percentage of their working days watching pornography.”
So for whatever reason, most truly objectionable material passes under the eyes of the censor, and can be regarded as unregulated.
The move to online sales has only heightened this problem. Steam has been known to sell Refused Classification games to Australians, and any age checks it does perform can easily be sidestepped. Even if a minor doesn’t have a credit card, they can easily pay a CD key website using PayPal.
Unfortunately, now we know that none of the R18+ laws even attempt to address this problem. Just like X18+ media, it is simply too hard. When the first of January rolls around, our laws will do a good job of stopping teenagers from buying 18+ games in stores, but not a great job of stopping them buying 18+ games across the net. Queensland’s R18+ legislation is sensible for what it does, but is already dated.