Classification reforms passed

The Australian Federal Parliament passed reforms recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission in its Classification: Content Regulation and Convergent Media report released in February 2012. The Media Release from the Minster for Justice, Michael Keenan MP, is below.

During my time chairing this review, it had long been apparent that there was a greater degree of political bipartisanship around the need for reform than was apparent if you drew insights from the Institute of Public Affairs, particular religious moralists, or the noisiest voices on social media.

The whole issue of content classification is often seen as a “no win” for whatever Minster happens to get that portfolio. There are, however, pathways to meaningful reform in the content standards area in a convergent media context which, while difficult, are not impossible.

At times, however, this requires you to look beyond the most vocal commentators on the issues in question, which can be hard in an era of open publishing and instant expertise.

Coda: Helen Razer’s commentary on the changes in Crikey Daily Review can be found here. The tone of amazement that the Abbott government has made changes that she approves of is fascinating.

This is perhaps less surprising if you consider the issue historically. As Minister for Customs and Excise in the Gorton Liberal Government, Don Chipp pioneered the move away from direct censorship of media content towards the modern classification regime in 1971. Now in some ways Don Chipp was an unusual Liberal – he left the party to found the Australian Democrats in 1977 because he found Malcolm Fraser to be too right wing – but it is a reminder that there is an anti-censorship tradition on the liberal-right side of Australian politics.

Bill to streamline classification system passed
28 August 2014

Legislation for a faster, more reliable and cost effective classification of content such as mobile and online games was passed through Federal Parliament today.
The reforms deliver on the Coalition Government’s commitment to have a modern National Classification Scheme to better handle ever-changing content in a dynamic media environment.
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Classification Tools and Other Measures) Act 2014 (Classification Act) amends the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to implement a number of ‘first tranche’ reforms that were agreed to by Commonwealth, state and territory classification Ministers.
These ‘first tranche reforms’ are based on a number of recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of the National Classification Scheme, and represents the first step towards a scheme that it is better equipped to meet the needs of industry and consumers in the digital age.
Other reforms include:
Removing the need for reclassification when minor changes are made to computer games, such as software updates or bug fixes;
3D films will not require classification again when converted from 2D format or vice versa;
film festivals will no longer need permission from the Director of the Classification Board to screen unclassified films provided the organisers and the events have been accredited under the Classification Act; and
films that feature content about natural history or the social sciences (economics, geography, anthropology and linguistics) no longer need to be classified.
These reforms will deliver benefits to industry by reducing administrative red tape and the regulatory burden while still ensuring consumers are provided with important classification information.
Ultimately we want to ensure the current scheme is effective, that we enhance compliance with state and territory classification laws, and importantly – provide more classification information to parents and young people.
These reforms are the first step in process of ensuring our classification system continues to be effective and relevant in the 21st century.

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About Terry Flew

I am Professor of Media and Communication in the Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. I am the author of New Media: An Introduction, the fourth edition of which was published by Oxford University Press in 2014. I am also the author of Understanding Global Media, published by Palgrave in 2007, and The Creative Industries, Culture and Policy, published by Sage in 2012.