Australian Senator Proposes Bill to Protect Video Games from Bans

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Australian Senator and leader of the Australian Liberal Democrats David Leyonhjelm has proposed three bills to the Australian Parliament; one which could prevent video games from being banned on grounds of being offensive.

The bills were detailed in a post on the Australian Liberal Democrat’s Medium. The bills include the “Freedom of Speech Legislation Amendment (Security) Bill 2018” which will allegedly “remove bans on journalists reporting, and the general public discussing, the operations of security agencies unless such communications endanger someone’s health or safety.”

Another bill proposed was the “Freedom of Speech Legislation Amendment (Insult and Offend) Bill 2018 ”, which promises to amend existing laws to remove bans on speech that someone finds insulting or offensive. “Feeling insulted or offended is a subjective feeling that can vary enormously between individuals and for which nobody else is responsible,” Leyonhjelm said.

The “Freedom of Speech Legislation Amendment (Censorship) Bill 2018” is the one that is proposing something that could affect sales of video games in Australia.

“[The bill] will remove the government’s power to ban publications, films and computer games based solely on the grounds that they might offend against standards of morality, decency and propriety.

“This is an excessive restriction on what adults can read, watch, play and listen to,” he said.

The Bill will not remove bans on material that depicts child sex or promotes, incites or instructs in crime, and dealing in child pornography will remain a serious criminal offence.”

The bill will also remove “X18+ bans for subscription broadcasting, datacasting and online content, provided that access is restricted by way of disabling devices (eg PIN access)”. Additionally, it proposes removing the ban on pornography in “designated parts of the Northern Territory, where the pornography is legally available elsewhere in Australia” and allow broadcast of electoral advertising on election day.

The bill will be introduced to the Australian Parliament on June 27th 2018. After the Parliament has approved of the bill (making modifications if need be), it then passes to the second house. Once both the House of Representatives and the Senate approve of the bill, it is then agreed upon to become law.

This is not the first time David Leyonhjelm has stood up for artistic freedom in the video game market. In March 2017, Leyonhjelm appealed to the Australian government that their lack of knowledge of video games meant they were unfit to judge what was fit to be sold. He stated:

“Not many Senators, or senior public servants would know the difference between a ghoul and an alghoul, and so, would find it hard to advance in the video game known as The Witcher. In fact politicians and public servants are blocked from accessing video game websites. If you want to access the Polygon, IGN, PC Gamer, or GamePlanet, the computer says no. This is presumably because we might stumble across an image someone disapproves of in a medium we don’t understand.

However, we have no such trouble accessing neo-Nazi forums like Stormfront, and videos showing sites like Liveleak, where you can watch videos of real people being killed. That’s not something I recommend, or would choose to watch myself, but I defend the right of adults to access all kinds of internet sites, because adults should be free to choose. But it tells us something about the illogical, censorious attitude bureaucrats have about video games.”

He then continues, and condemns the ban of selling Outlast 2 in Australia at the time.

“All of this operates on the false assumption that people who play video games are impressionable children, who will play out anything they saw. Yet the internet is now awash with all manner of unpleasant images, involving real people, not computer-generated images. While, violent crime around the world is in decline. It makes me wonder, how is it adults are not trusted to make choices about video games, and yet are allowed to vote? […] Every signal we have sent to the gaming community in this country is of censorship, disapproval, and discouragement. Compare this attitude, and that of the former Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk. Who famously presented a copy of The Witcher to President Barak Obama, who presumably now has time to learn the difference between a ghoul and an alghoul. Video games do not hurt anybody, and the Government Classification Board should leave video gamers alone.”

The ban on Outlast 2 was lifted at the end of that month in that year. In related news, earlier this month the Classification Board did repeal its ban on We Happy Few after the developer and publisher successfully repealed the ban.

Do you think Australia is softening its stance on video games? Do you have high hopes this bill will pass? Let us know in the comments below!



Ryan was a former Niche Gamer contributor.