Classification cooperative scheme

2.8 The classification cooperative scheme for films, publications and computer games was implemented through the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) (Classification Act) and complementary state and territory enforcement legislation. The Classification Act is supplemented by a number of regulations, determinations and other legislative instruments, including the:

  • National Classification Code (May 2005);
  • Guidelines for the Classification of Publications 2005 (Cth); and
  • Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (Cth).

2.9 The cooperative classification scheme is underpinned by an Intergovernmental Agreement on Censorship made between the Commonwealth and all states and territories (the Intergovernmental Agreement). This agreement confirms that certain changes to the scheme, such as amendments to the National Classification Code and classification guidelines, must be considered and agreed to by Censorship Ministers.[5]

2.10 As the National Classification Scheme is overseen by Australian Government and state and territory Censorship Ministers, classification matters are dealt with by the Standing Council on Law and Justice (SCLJ).[6] The SCLJ is a national ministerial council, whose members are the Attorney-General of Australia, the state and territory Attorneys General and the New Zealand Minister of Justice; Norfolk Island has observer status at SCLJ meetings.[7] Censorship Ministers generally meet twice a year, as part of the SCLJ to discuss classification policy and legislative issues and the operation of the scheme

2.11 The Federal Attorney-General’s Department provides administrative services to the Classification Board and Classification Review Board and supports the Censorship Ministers in their administration of the National Classification Scheme. The Attorney-General’s Department has overall responsibility for Australian classification policy.

The Classification Board and the Classification Review Board

2.12 The Classification Board is the primary body classifying films, publications and computer games in Australia. The Classification Board may comprise up to 30 members, and currently has 12 members, including a Director and Deputy Director. The Governor-General of Australia appoints all members for either full or part-time appointments, having regard to ensuring that the Classification Board ‘is broadly representative of the Australian community’.[8] Currently, members are appointed for three-year terms, and may be reappointed, but they can serve no longer than seven years. The Board charges fees for classifying material prescribed by regulation, with classification carried out largely on a cost recovery basis.

2.13 The Classification Review Board is an independent body comprised of part-time members who review Classification Board decisions on application. Like the Classification Board, its members are intended to be broadly representative of the Australian community. The Classification Review Board considers a much smaller volume of material than the Classification Board: in 2009–10, the Classification Review Board classified four films for public exhibition, one film not for public exhibition, two computer games and one publication.[9]

[5]Agreement Between the Commonwealth of Australia, the States and Territories Relating to a Revised Co-operative Legislative Scheme for Censorship in Australia (1995) pt III.

[6] Previously known as the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.

[7] Australian Attorney-General’s Department, Standing Council on Law and Justice <> at 23 January 2012.

[8]Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) s 48.

[9] Classification Review Board, Annual Report 2009–10, 62.