On 24 March 2011, Attorney-General Robert McClelland referred the National Classification Scheme to the ALRC and asked it to conduct widespread public consultation across the community and industry.
The review considered issues including:
- existing Commonwealth, State and Territory classification laws
- the current classification categories contained in the Classification Act, Code and Guidelines
- the rapid pace of technological change
- the need to improve classification information available to the community
- the effect of media on children and
- the desirability of a strong content and distribution industry in Australia.
During the inquiry, the ALRC conducted face-to-face consultations with stakeholders, hosted two online discussion forums, and commissioned pilot community and reference group forums into community attitudes to higher level media content. The ALRC published two consultation documents—an Issues Paper and a Discussion Paper—and invited submissions from the public.
The Final Report was tabled in Parliament on 1 March 2012.
The report makes 57 recommendations for reform. The net effect of the recommendations would be the establishment of a new National Classification Scheme that:
- applies consistent rules to content that are sufficiently flexible to be adaptive to technological change;
- places a regulatory focus on restricting access to adult content, helping to promote cyber-safety and protect children from inappropriate content across media platforms;
- retains the Classification Board as an independent classification decision maker with an essential role in setting benchmarks;
- promotes industry co-regulation, encouraging greater industry content classification, with government regulation more directly focused on content of higher community concern;
- provides for pragmatic regulatory oversight, to meet community expectations and safeguard community standards;
- reduces the overall regulatory burden on media content industries while ensuring that content obligations are focused on what Australians most expect to be classified; and
- harmonises classification laws across Australia, for the benefit of consumers and content providers.