Greens leader Richard Di Natale has taken a swing at the NSW Liberal party’s stance on music festival pill testing and left it with a fat lip.
Di Natale was merciless in his appraisal of Premier Mike Baird’s current approach to drug policy in general, describing it as “silly, failed” and “out of touch”.
“You’re talking about a generation of politicians that are out of touch with what happens within the community,” he told The Music, referring to the Baird government’s recent threat to shut down NSW music festivals that failed to stamp out drug use, while advocating the most forehead slap-worthy drug overdose prevention strategy of all time – telling kids “just don’t take the pills and you’ll be fine!” – to combat NSW’s growing ecstasy epidemic.
“That’s a message that might appeal to an older demographic,” Di Natale continued. “It’s totally disconnected to what’s happening in the real world. It’s hard for me to get inside someone’s head like that to understand why, despite all the evidence, you would continue with that silly, failed approach, but I suppose it’s in part because it takes a bit of courage to challenge it, and courage is in short supply at the moment in the parliament.”
The Greens are currently advocating for a harm minimisation approach, which would include decriminalising personal drug use and redirecting the funds currently being used to catch and prosecute drug users, towards health care and rehabilitation services instead.
And according to Di Natale, there are two things currently standing in the way of achieving this. Firstly, a combination of ignorance and fear from the older generation and – secondly – political cowardice.
“You’ve got an older generation of people who haven’t really been exposed to some of these substances and so there’s a lot of fear and ignorance in the community and it tends to be that generation who are making the decisions,” he explained.
“It’s much more complex to have a mature evidence-based conversation about this stuff. I think there’s a lot of resistance, some of the biggest resistance to this comes from people that stand to make a buck out of it. I think there’s just a lack of courage within our political leader at the moment; there’s just a total lack of courage to take on hard issues and this is regarded as a hard issue.”
While #CasinoMike has made it clear that he’s willing to shut down every music festival in the *nanny* state before he even considers giving pill testing a go, a group of leading Australian health experts have moved to independently bankroll a pill-testing trial, vowing to defy Baird’s ultra-conservative regime and even endure mass arrests if it means preventing the kind of fatal drug overdoses like we saw at Stereosonic this past summer.
Meanwhile, a veritable justice league of politicians, doctors, public health and drug experts, criminologists, lawyers, policy writers, researchers and police have joined forces to create the The Canberra Declaration, which calls for a major paradigm shift in the way that Australia thinks about, and tackles, drug use.
Among their recommended changes: decriminalisation, ditching sniffer dogs and introducing pill testing.
And, according to our recent poll, over 80% of Music Feeds readers would agree.