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Feb 152013

The following is a speech made in Parliament yesterday by Steve Minnikin the state member for Chatsworth.

I rise in this chamber to make a small contribution to debate on the Classification of Computer Games and Images and Other Legislation Amendment Bill. I note that the main purpose of the Classification of Computer Games and Images and Other Legislation Amendment Bill is to amend the Classification of Computer Games and Images Act 1995 to provide for the demonstration, sale, supply and advertisement of computer games classified as R18+ in Queensland. The bill also amends the Classification of Films Act 1991 to transfer to the director of the Commonwealth Classification Board the function of granting exemptions to enable the exhibition of unclassified films at specified events such as film festivals. Further amendments that this bill introduces pertain to the Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011 to amend the short title of that act and the Recording of Evidence Act 1962 to enable the outsourcing of the recording and transcribing of legal proceedings in Queensland. Importantly though, the bill also makes miscellaneous amendments to the Classification of Publications Act 1991 consistent with the computer game and film classification legislation to provide protection against criminal liability for officials and amendments to the Criminal Code consequential to the amendments to the Classification of Computer Games and Images Act 1995. There are also consequential or minor amendments to a range of other acts listed in the schedules to the bill.
In speaking to the Classification of Computer Games and Images and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, I want to specifically concentrate on the amendments to allow the introduction of R18+ classified computer games. I note from my background research into this bill that in around July/August 2011 the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, SCAG, agreed in principle to introduce an R18+ classification for computer games. The amendments to the Commonwealth act to provide for an R18+ classification for computer games have been passed and commenced on 1 January this year. To enable the scheme to operate nationally, amendments must be made to the complementary state and territory legislation, which is what we are doing. Last year on 26 September the Commonwealth registered the new guidelines for the classification of computer games on the federal register of legislative instruments and gazetted them on that same day. Under the intergovernmental agreement on censorship, states and territories must table the guidelines in their respective parliaments within 30 sitting days of their gazettal by the Commonwealth.

Importantly, the games guidelines incorporate the new adults only R18+ classification. R18+ content is permitted to include material with high-impact violence provided it is not, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative or offensive to a reasonable adult. The introduction of the R18+ classification of computer games seeks to strike the right balance and an appropriate balance between the rights of adults who want to see and hear what they would like and the protection of minors from unsuitable material. Jeremy Bentham, the famous British philosopher, jurist, social reformer and founder of modern utilitarianism, once stated—
As to the evil which results from a censorship, it is impossible to measure it, for it is impossible to tell where it ends.

The LNP has at its very core the essential elements of liberalism and pragmatic conservatism. Adults in Queensland should not be denied the opportunity to play 18+ games on current generation consoles such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or high-gaming content PCs. I note with interest that clause 5 amends section 4 to take account of the fact that the definition of ‘computer game’ under the act is being amended to align it with the definition adopted by the Commonwealth and all other states and territories. This is indeed consistent and sensible. As a father of two sons, I am very much aware how the computer-gaming industry has matured over the last decade as I have followed the rise of the humble first Xbox from the first generation black console to the current Xbox 360, complete with 250 gigabyte hard disk and in-built wi-fi.

Indeed, as many members in this House would be aware, whenever there is an uplift in the hardware platforms of the various gaming companies such Microsoft and Sony there is a consequential improvement in the quality of the gaming software. Here is the rub: the quality of some of the latest gaming titles when viewed on current large-screen plasma or LED televisions is akin to watching a movie. The modern screen definition panel allows games such as Call of Duty—Black Ops, Halo 4 and Gears of War 3 to be portrayed in extreme graphic detail. It is a far cry from the days of my misspent youth pushing 20c coins into the old Taito Space Invaders console, with pixelated, grainy martians crawling ever so slowly down to the bottom of the screen to inevitably overrun my base station.

It is my understanding that the gaming industry has matured so rapidly over the last decade that earnings from this area of entertainment now equal or surpass that of the movie box office. Furthermore, the demographic of the average user has also matured—quite literally—from a predominantly teenage market a decade or so ago to someone now in their late 20s or early 30s, or, like some of the members in this hallowed chamber, in their 40s or 50s. Whilst I am a passionate believer in state’s rights and the notion of competitive federalism, there will always be a need to have a sensible and consistent approach to various issues that traverse state boundaries. That is the case with this bill, which amends the definition of ‘computer game’ to align it with the definition adopted by the Commonwealth and all the other states and territories.

There is an absolute need for the introduction of a new consistent adults only R18+ classification in Queensland, as it respects the right of consenting adults to play games that are not suitable for minors and protects the interests of all concerned. I thoroughly commend this bill to the House.

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