… it’s only at the Federal level. It’s up to the States and Territories to then pass complementary legislation that allows the sale of R18+ titles.
Are the States and Territories likely to pass such things on? It’s a good question and not one that I’ve seen get much attention. Just because the Attorneys-General decide to approve the legislation (there it is; a scant four pages), doesn’t mean that their state political system will support it. Currently the Australian Federal Government is in a weak position and there are a number of States that would be more than happy to embarrass them further, or take an anti-Federal posture.
So let’s see:
Australian Capital Territory: They said they wanted to pass the R18+ classification even if no-one else did, so I’d think they’d put this into law. Canberra and the Northern Territory are the only places in Australia (to my knowledge) where it is legal to purchase X classified materials, such as hard core pornography. Now, hard core porn still gets sold in other states, but legally it shouldn’t.
New South Wales: They abstained from at least one vote on the issue, but seem positive about the idea. However, they are a Coalition government whereas the Federal Government is Labor (the other side), so anything can happen.
Victoria: Will probably introduce the legislation, despite being another Coalition State government.
South Australia: Wanted to remove the MA15+ classification entirely and replace it with R18+, which I’ve noted before would make titles like Mass Effect only legally available to those aged over 18. Now has the chance to do so.
Northern Territory: As noted above, it’s legal to sell porn there, so R18+ for video games is probably an easy sell.
Queensland: This is an interesting one. New-ish Premier Campbell Newman leads a more conservative Coalition government than seen in a number of other states and would love to take a stand just to show that he could. It depends which way the wind blows on that day.
Western Australia: Another state with a slightly autocratic Premier in Colin Barnett, it’s also in the situation where the current Attorney-General has left his position to aim for a Federal seat. If he’s replaced by someone like Troy Buswell, they may not pass the legislation to (again) take a stand against the Federal Government.
Tasmania: Held by Labor, Tasmania would be very likely to pass the R18+ legislation on.
Now, even if a state doesn’t pass the legislation it is likely that R18+ games will be shipped across borders, but it won’t be legal to sell them off the shelf.
And then come the display requirements, which dictate how R18+ titles can be shown in a retail setting (and even if they can be).
The target date for the R18+ classification to go into effect is January 1, 2013, so the States and Territories need the laws on their books by then to have things ready… if they are going to. Again, it’s an easy position to take that they’d like to do it, but there are more important things to do ahead of changing a classification scheme.
Oh, and one other thing – a lot of people seem to think that this change means that previously refused classification titles will now have the chance to appear on shelves. They won’t, because titles have to wait two years on their original classification before they can be reclassified. Unless they are released with new content or something that makes them “new” enough to be considered, or if the Australian Classification Board is nice and decides to review it themselves before that period.
So, anyway, I’m not holding my breath that R18+ titles are going to be available on shelves across Australia early in 2013.