The father of a young man who suffered a fatal drug overdose at Defqon.1 three years ago has come out against the NSW Government’s threat to shut down the festival.
ICYMI: NSW liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian has, much like her predecessor “Casino” Mike Baird, vowed to axe the rave after two people died and three more were hospitalised in a critical condition following the Sydney event this past weekend.
But Mita Paulijevic, whose 26-year-old son Nigel passed away at the 2015 dance festival, is urging the government to realise that Defqon is not the problem.
“There’s nothing wrong with festivals – it’s the bloody pushers who go in there and sell drugs to them. It’s not the festival that kills people,” he tells triple J‘s Hack.
“[Nigel] was a beautiful young man and there’s other beautiful people out there at the festival who don’t deserve to die. These people who sell it deserve to be put away. Don’t stop festivals, that’s got nothing to do with it.”
Promoters and artists of Defqon have also slammed the government’s response to the tragedy, calling it a “knee-jerk reaction”.
“I think the Premier’s comments are absolutely ridiculous, the first thing they should be thinking about is how can we have events and look after people, than this notion that any drugs are bad,” Defqon 2018 DJ John Ferris tells Hack.
“[It would be better] if there was more done to test drugs and decriminalise them… they need to rethink this.”
But the Berejiklian Government has flat out refused to “rethink” anything, declaring that it will not consider pill-testing as an option to reduce drug casualties at events, regardless of whether or not an expert panel — convened specifically to instruct the government on how to make music festivals safer — tells them to.
“Anyone who advocates pill-testing is giving the green light to drugs,” Gladys proclaims. “There is no such thing as a safe drug and unfortunately when young people think there is, it has tragic consequences.”
However her statement has been proven categorically false by ABC Fact Checkers , with RMIT researchers previously demonstrating that the conservative catch-cry that pill-testing leads to more deaths is complete and utter bullsh*t.
“There is no evidence that pill-testing results in festival attendees and partygoers taking more drugs and dying as a consequence,” researcher Claudia Long says. “There is evidence to suggest that pill-testing can make some users more likely to dispose of their drugs or take smaller quantities of them.”
While the landmark trial came back with some disturbing details about some of the 83 drugs tested, the upshot of those results was that many of the punters who owned the bad drugs decided to bin them rather than risk their lives, causing many commentators to hail the whole thing a big success.
Meanwhile, The Greens are among those blasting the Premier’s festival shutdown “solution” to curbing fatal overdoses and joining the chorus calling for pill-testing to be implemented.
“The premier of NSW, rather than saying that she wants to shut down the festival, needs to open her mind to the evidence,” Greens leader Richard Di Natale tells Seven. “This is a knee-jerk response that she’s going to ‘shut down a music festival’ when we know that she can get out of the way and let pill testing occur.
“If pill testing is available, it can save people’s lives. If those drugs that were taken had’ve been tested, there is a very good chance that those individuals would be alive right now.”
President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Dr Alex Wodak, adds that “pill-testing would have helped” prevent the overdoses at Defqon.
“It wouldn’t have eradicated the risk, but it would have certainly reduced it, and I think that’s what we should be doing,” he says.
“The Premier has got zero tolerance to drugs. I’d prefer her to have zero tolerance to preventable deaths of young people.”
But the NSW liberal government’s reaction to the overwhelming evidence in support of pill-testing remains the same as ever:
Remember, this is the same Premier who said Sydney needs lockout laws because “mums and dads in the suburbs are worried about what their young kids are doing when they’re having a good time”.
The nanny state rages on…
Meanwhile, a full investigation is currently underway into the deaths at Sydney’s Defqon.1, and NSW Western Sydney Minister Stuart Ayres has Tweeted that the venue where the event was held will not be hosting it in the future.
According to NSW police, ten people were charged with drug supply offences at the festival, including two 17-year-old girls, who were allegedly caught carrying 120 MDMA capsules internally.
In August, a $100,000 fundraiser was launched to help support the roll out of pill testing programs at more Australian music festivals, following the successful Groovin The Moo trial.
The Sydney International Regatta Centre will not be hosting Defqon.1 into the future.
— Stuart Ayres (@stuartayresmp) September 16, 2018