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					                      THE HON BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP
                  MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS AND JUSTICE

                                       SPEECH

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Gametech Conference
Videolink to Luna Park Sydney
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Topics: National Classification Scheme Review; introduction of an R18+ classification
for computer games; growth of the computer game industry

It is my pleasure to be here today to address the Gametech conference, and to share
the Gillard Government’s vision for computer game regulation.

My thanks to Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association,
for introducing me, and for chairing this important event.

Gametech is an important and very timely conference.

We are witnessing a period of rapid technological change in the computer gaming
industry, which is creating exciting opportunities, and generating new audience
expectations.

And, I don’t need to tell you that these expectations will drive creative development,
and generate demand for new advances in technology.

As the Minister for Justice, I am a key player in the regulation of computer game
content under the National Classification Scheme. But, as things stand, the Gillard
Government is but one of nine players. Every State and Territory Government
currently has an equal say in how computer games are regulated. This presents
some challenges, as you are all aware.

Part of my responsibility is to ensure that the system of classification is adaptable –
and is adapting – to technological change. To this end, the Gillard Government
recently launched a comprehensive review of the National Classification Scheme, to
be conducted by the Law Reform Commission.

The areas of inquiry that have been selected for the conference are significant for the
future of the industry, and of great interest to me.

I understand you will be exploring topics such as the future of the Australian game
development industry, the trends in the gaming app market, emerging models for
distribution, and the interdependence and convergence of computer gaming with
other media.

The scope of these topics suggests that computer gaming, along with other forms of
media interaction, is now three things –portable, ubiquitous and networked.
That shift in the gaming experience will have a huge influence on the future of
computer game classification, and content regulation more generally.

That’s why the Government understands that we have a responsibility to deliver, in
partnership with you, reforms that achieve the important objective of minimising the
regulatory burden on industry.
In 1996, when the current legislation underpinning the National Classification
Scheme came into effect, it was based on what now seems to some to be an old
fashioned paradigm—films viewed in theatres, video rentals, magazines and
computer games purchased in retail outlets.

Remember 1996? Fifteen years ago, Adobe Flash technology was new and cutting
edge, Facebook was yet to take over our lives and the original Tomb Raider video
game was released. This franchise has since sold 35 million units.

Nobody imagined that people would be playing Angry Birds on their smart phones,
while sitting on the train, with a free Wifi connection giving them networked
interactivity with players around the globe.

Fifteen years on, this Government wants a vibrant computer game development and
distribution industry in Australia.

The domestic game development market has grown remarkably in recent years, and
can presently boast over 50 companies with more than 200 popular gaming titles to
its credit.

Recent studies indicate that the computer games industry overall in Australia is worth
over A$1.3 billion annually, and has an annual growth rate of 15%.

The success of local games design has recently been highlighted with the release of
LA Noire, considered to be a ground-breaking game for its realistic depiction of
characters and movie-like plot and game-play.

We recognise that convergence and globalisation have revolutionised the way people
access their information and entertainment.

That is why we have taken a pro-active approach to ensuring that the classification
system keeps pace with technological change and other developments in the
marketplace.

Our plan includes the Review of the National Classification Scheme by the Australian
Law Reform Commission to be lead by Professor Terry Flew.

The aim of the review is to address whether the National Classification Scheme
continues to provide an effective framework for the classification of media content,
and make recommendations for reform.

It is examining the regulatory practices in Australia and comparable systems
overseas, and will refer any matters involving content delivery platforms to the
Convergence Review, currently undertaken by the Government.

As a first step in the ALRC process, it has released its Issues Paper, which is
available on its website.

That paper examines the existing policy rationale for the National Classification
Scheme.

We need to come up with clear, simple and consistent rules for content classification
that can adapt to any media content and distribution platform.
I believe it is critical that you understand that the review process offers you an
opportunity, as key players in the industry, to contribute to this important public policy
discussion. The Issues Paper is open to submissions until 15 July 2011.

I would strongly encourage you all to submit your views and ideas to the ALRC,
either as individuals or through your relevant industry bodies, such as the iGEA.
Your contributions will greatly assist the Commission to provide well informed and
deliberated recommendations for our consideration.

In addition to the independent Review of the National Classification Scheme, the
Gillard Government supports the introduction of an R 18+ category for computer
games.

Now, I imagine I’m preaching to the converted, but it is important to comment briefly
on this matter.

It provides a case study in some of the broader difficulties of the National
Classification Scheme.

The introduction of an adult game rating into Australia is a long overdue reform, one
which has been on the agenda for close to a decade. It has sat on the reform
agenda since 2002 and I think it’s fair to say that it’s time for a decision.

At the most fundamental level, an R 18+ category for computer games is required to
give the Australian classification system parity with comparable systems overseas.
The purpose of this reform is two-fold. Australia needs a robust classification system
that protects children from material that may be harmful, while also ensuring that
adults are free to make their own decisions about the computer games they play,
within the bounds of the law; and an R 18+ category will provide better information to
parents and retailers, and help prevent children from accessing unsuitable material.
Under our current system – which has no adult game rating – games that contain
adult content in their overseas versions are modified to have this removed, before
they are classified and legally made available in Australia.

As you probably know, last year we conducted a public consultation process on the
topic of introducing an R 18+ category for computer games.

We discovered that such a reform was supported by 98% of the (58,043) people who
made valid submissions to the public consultation process.

In November 2010, before a meeting of Classification Ministers in December, 80% of
people - across wide demographics - contacted in a nationwide telephone poll
supported the introduction of an R 18+ category as well.

The high number here was particularly interesting as the poll was a random sample
of Australians, from every State and Territory, not self-selected respondents like the
earlier consultation had been.

To progress this reform, earlier this year we set about negotiating, with our State and
Territory counterparts, the content of guidelines in support of an R 18+ category.
These guidelines are a necessary component of our proposed reform.

The draft guidelines were released to the public last month. So far the feedback has
been very positive.
We are accepting comments up until tomorrow so jump online if you want to let us
know what you think about the draft guidelines, and the introduction of an R 18+
category.

The feedback we receive will inform Classification Ministers’ discussions on 22 July
in Adelaide, when we meet to make a decision on the introduction of an R18+
category for computer games.

The Gillard Government is committed to balancing freedom of choice with
responsibility in this policy area, and we believe an R 18+ category for computer
games is the right way to implement that commitment.

Recently, I met with a group of future computer game developers studying at Ballarat
University.

It was clear to all of us that the present changes to the media landscape are
profound, and the increased share that computer games have of our entertainment
dollar is part of this transformation.

The industry in Australia is now more than double the size of the film box office, and
more than 40 percent larger than the DVD industry. As recently as last Saturday, the
Sydney Morning Herald reported that last year’s hit game – Call of Duty: Black Ops
– has already grossed more than $US1 billion. Fewer than 10 films released in the
past decade can claim the same. More starkly, in 2010 the total US box office was
worth $US10.6 billion. The estimated annual revenue of the gaming industry was
nearly double, at $US18.6 billion.

This Government wants to do all it can to ensure this remarkable growth continues to
foster a strong local computer game industry, particularly the game development
industry, which now boasts more than 50 companies and over 200 game titles to its
credit.

This Government recognises that removing obstacles to growth will allow those
young game developers I spoke with to flourish.

We are passionate about encouraging the development of a large skill base of
creative talent in this sector, and that’s why we are delivering on the NBN and
appropriate regulation.

This Government believes that Australians want and deserve a classification system
that respects the intelligence and autonomy of responsible adults in the community,
and equally protects minors from material that may harm them.

We anticipate that the Classification Review will make an important contribution to
this Government’s drive to develop such a world-class regulatory scheme.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to working with you, and ensuring that you are
able to participate fully in our reform agenda.
Thank you once again for inviting me, and for listening to me today.

				
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