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Oz gov kicks off censorship review

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For the first time in 20 years, the Australian Federal Government looks intent on updating the National Classification Scheme.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced that the review would be conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), which will conduct a widespread public consultation across the community and industry.

The review has been sparked by outdated classification issues in the gaming sector and will also be core to plans for a proposed national internet filter.

The ALRC has been asked to provide its final report by 30 January 2012. Issues to be considered include; revision of existing Commonwealth, State and Territory classification laws; classification categories contained in the Classification Act, Code and Guidelines; technological change; the effect of media on children and desirability of a strong content and distribution industry in Australia.

The last time the classification standards were reviewed was 20 years ago and McClelland said that review helped to develop the cooperative scheme between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories that exist today.

"Given the advances in technology and media we've seen since then, it is timely this work is undertaken,” he said.

The Minister responsible for classification, Brendan O'Connor, added: "A lot has changed in recent years. Australians now access content through the Internet and mobile phones and that poses challenges for the existing classification scheme."

The appointment of a new ALRC Commissioner to work on the review will be announced shortly.

Classification has grabbed the spotlight in 2011, with games like Mortal Kombat refused classification (making the sale of the game illegal in Australia), in turn sparking calls for the introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games.

If the Australian government succeeds in introducing its internet censorship scheme, still not a certainty given its lack of a majority in Parliament, the classification system will be importance, since the purpose of the Great Firewall of Oz would be to block RC (refused classification) content over the web. ®

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