With fresh moves afoot to remove the words insult and offend from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act[1], the Pirate Party calls upon Parliament to get serious about supporting free speech.

“Pirate Party Australia is well aware of the risks around state censorship of opinions,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We fought the Internet censorship laws of the Rudd Government and we opposed the Gillard Government’s attempt to extend section 18C in ways that would have banned causing offence on the grounds of religion and political opinion.”

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The Pirate Party is bewildered that Hotline Miami 2 is being refused classification and is therefore effectively banned from the Australian retail market[1]. While the Pirate Party does not endorse sexual violence, it is critical of the double standard by which video games are treated as inherently different to other mediums. It is unacceptable and unnecessarily paternalistic to deny adults access to content that would be permitted in other mediums.

With the introduction of an adult rating (R18+) for video games at the beginning of 2013 the community expected a sensible approach to the classification of games. Previously the highest classification level available for games was MA15+, and, due to the adult nature of some games, those that exceeded the MA15+ guidelines were banned from sale in Australia. Unfortunately games continue to be judged by a stricter standard and a number of games have been refused classification since then. Today we see yet another example with the banning of Hotline Miami 2.

“The Australian Classifications Board has a long history of banning films, video games and generally treating Australian adults as children,” commented Simon Frew, Deputy President of the Pirate Party. “There have been a number of films that have been banned over the last decade or so, but video games seem to attract undue attention from the censors. Games like Hotline Miami 2 are designed specifically for adults and adults should be allowed to choose the content they consume.”

The new classification scheme for video games was firmly seated in an acceptance of the fact that gaming now crosses all demographic borders and there are far more mature adults playing than there are impressionable children[2]. The new scheme fails to adequately accommodate the wide range of content available for the varying consumer tastes driving industry demand, and instead places a blanket ban on the legal sale within Australia of major international game titles.

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Pirate Party Australia welcomes several of the recommendations put by the Australian Law Reform Commission in regard to reforming the current classification system.

The ALRC’s final report includes several recommendations that are in line with the Pirate Party’s policies, proving that the Party’s policies are not as extremist as often made out to be. In one instance, Telstra agreed with the Pirate Party on the issue of voluntary industry classifications.

Other recommendations that the Pirate Party are pleased with are the recommendations that all commercial computer games that are likely to be MA15+ or higher must be classified. The report also recommends that all media must be classified according to a platform neutral system that would end discrepancy between various mediums whilst not extending to various non-commercial and user generated content media, as well as the suggestion that the ‘Refused Classification’ category be replaced with the more appropriate ‘Prohibited’ category.

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Pirate Party Australia are dismayed by the perpetual delays regarding the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games.

The Party applauded the introduction of a bill to Parliament last Wednesday that would finally create an R18+ classification for video games[1]. The Government appears to have listened to the overwhelming public support for a new rating system that caters to the ever expanding video game market. Many games that would previously have been squeezed under the bar into the misleading MA15+ rating can now receive a more appropriate, far more informing rating.

“I am enthusiastic about an R18+ rating for video games entering our system. It will provide a far superior rating system for parents. However, it is important to watch this space closely, as poorly formed classification guidelines have the potential to create no greater flexibility, with ‘refused classification’ games such as Syndicate, that are perfectly legal to purchase and play around the world, to remain banned here in Australia,” commented David Campbell, President of Pirate Party Australia.

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No PDF of submission

Below is the submission that Pirate Party Australia made to the Australian Law Reform Committee National Classification Scheme review. In summary, we recommended a voluntary system similar to PEGI or ESRB and recommended the abolition of the Refused Classification category.

Answering this inquiry in such a regimented format proved to be quite troublesome for such a broad inquiry, but we believe that we have answered the questions to the best of our ability.

Thanks to all those who contributed to this paper, your input is greatly appreciated!

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