Laura Tucceri, St Aloysius College

'We're not morons': governments should butt out of young people's lives

In Australia, the Federal Government exercises a certain amount of control over the general public through various laws and regulations. Most people accept these boundaries to be a positive requirement as a means of protection, however restrictions have never been as stringent and invasive as they are today. Recently much controversy and debate has arisen over the limited rights of young people, with Governments increasingly interfering in their lives. Unfairly censoring Internet and video game access and imposing unwarranted restrictions exclusively on young P-Plate drivers demonstrate this. These laws are drafted without any consultation from young Australians, whose rights are being limited.

The Federal government intends to introduce an Internet ‘filter’ which will, according to Senator Conroy, block access to inappropriate and unwanted material, including euthanasia websites, gambling sites and all pornography [1]. Many believe that this filter will protect young people from detrimental material, however this argument breaches the freedom of expression, which protects the right to give and receive information and ideas of all kinds. Internet censorship would violate educational rights by restricting students from gaining legal information, hindered by the scheme. The ludicrous filter would not be an effective means of reducing offensive Internet material, according to EFA board member Colin Jacobs, as it wouldn’t cover peer-to-peer sharing networks. [2] In addition to the wide range of content deliberately blocked by the filter, trials show an ISP level filter will accidentally block huge numbers of legitimate sites. At best, it will unintentionally block one in fifty sites, at worst, one in twelve. [2]. Furthermore, tests for proposed filters have exposed a speed reduction of 87% [3].  Although the filter may protect young Australians from objectionable material, it is clear the cons greatly outweigh the pros.

Australia is the only western democracy to lack an R18+ classification category for video games. If a game is deemed unsuitable for MA15+ by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, it is refused classification and therfore cannot be sold [4]. According to Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, “At the moment, Australia is out of step with the rest of the developed world on this issue." [5] This outrageous law restricts young Australians who are over 15, effectively treating them as children, yet according to recent surveys the average age of gamers in Australia is above 20. [4] The current system needlessly disadvantages young Australians and discriminates by age as a result of treating all gamers like 15 year olds and unable to decide which games are appropriate. Young Australians who are devout gamers are incapable of competing with online counterparts because of the MA15+ classification. This law belittles Australians and limits their freedom of expression in regards to entertainment. Although the classification may protect children from offensive material it breaches the Freedom of expression right, which promotes the provision of information and ideas. Moreover, contrary to the information of the popular press, there is no research or information linking video-game violence to real-life violence [6]. This law needs to be modified so that, like in the case of film, all Australians, including young Australians, are treated fairly in regards to age appropriate classification.

New regulations affecting probationary drivers under 21 years of age were recently put into practice by the Victorian government. The system stipulates that in order to successfully obtain the P-1 standard, young Australians (under 21) must hold a learner permit for six months, are incapable of using a high powered vehicle even if they had purchased it prior to the new regulations, and face passenger restrictions. These ultimately hypocritical laws only affect young Australians applying for P1-plates, generally excluding those above the age of 21. This is outrageous as all P1-plate drivers lack experience and knowledge. Therefore they all need to pay the same amount of attention to road safety and appropriate driving skills. According to the Arrive Alive website “Crashes are most common in the first 12 months of driving on P-plates. The most important factor in crashes for newly licensed P-plate drivers is inexperience.” [7] Conflicting scenarios include the fact that those above 25 years of age are eligible to gain a Probationary-1 permit after only three months of holding a learners permit, as opposed to the six months for those under 25 [8]. Furthermore, only P1-plate drivers under 21 are restricted to carrying one passenger aged 16-21 for the first twelve months [9], making car-pooling virtually impossible and placing pressure on parents as taxi’s. Acting Premier Rob Hulls believes the government is focused on driver education and training through the use of campaigns against speed [10], however the government is only producing obvious cases of age discrimination, as all novice drivers require a large amount of education and training.

There are various laws applying solely to young Australians that are age appropriate. Prohibitions in relation to purchasing cigarettes and alcohol are regarded as imperative, as they are deprecating to the human body and are addictive, therefore it is appropriate for limitations to be placed on such items. However in the cases examined, it can clearly be seen how age discrimination has been overlooked where the unnecessary application of restrictions regarding young people has occurred. The Internet filter impairs learning by restricting appropriate Internet content, along with inappropriate which, ironically, is generally supplied by older generations. Gaming classification overlooks the fact that most gamers are above the age of 15, and are in fact young adults. These young Australians are unable to play games unless they are recommended for 15 year olds. Finally varying rules in regards to P1-plate drivers are age discriminatory. Age does not affect driving experience, so why should there be different rules for those above 21, and those below? The Australian Government has the best intentions of young Australians in mind, however their hypocrisy and interference is demoralizing, especially when young people are not consulted in changes that will affect them.

 

Endnotes:

[1] Fact Sheet-Internet Censorship, viewed 10 March 2009, http://www.getup.org.au/files/campaigns/internetcensorshipfactsheet.pdf

[2] Australia's compulsory internet filtering 'costly, ineffective', viewed 10 March 2009,http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,24571118-15306,00.html

[3] Australian Communications and Media Authority, Closed Environment Testing of ISP-, Level Internet Content Filtering(June, 2008) 45.

[4] R18+ for Games in Australia,viewed 10 March 2009,http://r18games.com/

[5] Censoring the censorship debate,viewed 10 March 2009, http://blogs.theage.com.au/screenplay/archives//010915.html

[6]Violence and video games,  viewed 10 March 2009, www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/419019

[7] Peer passenger restriction, viewed 10 March 2009, http://arrivealive.vic.gov.au/node/208

[8] Information for Pi probationary Drivers, viewed 10 March 2009, www.arrivealive.vic.gov.au/node/202

[9] A summary of key changes for learner and probationary drivers, viewed 10 March 2009, www.arrivealive.vic.gov.au/node/204

[10] Vic govt rejects P-plate passenger limit, viewed 10 March 2009, www.drive.com.au/Editorial/ArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=46255&vf= 1