Australia's quest for an R18+ videogame rating has hit another speedbump as the bill brought before Parliament has been referred to another inquiry.
I'm starting to think that what we're seeing in Australia's stumbling shuffle to a functional videogame rating system is not actually an irrational fear of the future but rather the longest-running and most elaborate legislative troll ever perpetrated by a modern Western government. How else can you possibly explain these bizarre shenanigans? Immediately after the bill to amend the Classification Act finally came before Parliament, the first step in what will still be a relatively drawn-out process to get the legislation passed, it was referred to yet another committee for further examination.
The news came by way of Member of Parliament Ed Husic, who tweeted, "After we finally intro'd the R+18 Video Game laws to Parliament today, this arvo the Coalition referred the Bill to yet ANOTHER inquiry!" [An Australian-to-English Google translation revealed that "this arvo" means "this afternoon."]
According to Kotaku Australia, if just a single MP calls for an inquiry on a bill, it must be sent to a Standing Committee for deeper scrutiny. On the upside, these inquiries are usually fast-tracked and handled by people with knowledge of the proposed legislation in order to minimize any delays, so with any luck it'll be given a quick once-over and sent back.
"People will want to move quickly," Husic said, perhaps optimistically. " It could be one day inquiry and get it over and done with, the committee may just refer it straight back."
But if the bill ends up the subject of a full inquiry, the delay will be substantially longer. "First they have to call for public submissions - again," he continued. "They may hold a public hearing based on the submission. Then they have to draft a report, the Committee has to agree to that report and then they submit it back to Parliament."
And while it's possible that everything could be wrapped up in a month, Husic noted that the Australian Parliament doesn't sit in April, which could lead to even further delays.
It seems very unlikely that will happen, as like it or not, previous inquiries have been overwhelmingly in favor of the amendment and it's clearly time to get on with it. But as we've seen previously, opponents of the rating do draw some political water and may choose to continue the fight. Husic suggested that Australians who don't want to see the matter bogged down should contact their MPs about it. "If people want this inquiry to move quickly," he said, "they should make their voices heard on the issue."