NSW Premier “Casino Mike” Baird has taken a piss on a privately-funded initiative to trial pill testing at the state’s music festivals.
His government’s staunch opposition to the potentially lifesaving services is what prompted a group of leading Australian health experts to independently bankroll the pill-testing trial in the first place, vowing to defy Baird’s ultra-conservative regime and even endure mass arrests if it meant preventing the kind of fatal drug overdoses we saw at Stereosonic this past summer.
But rather than considering the benefits of a harm minimisation approach to NSW’s growing ecstasy epidemic, #casinomike’s strategy is once again to preach “abstinence or death”.
As SMH reports, the Premier appeared on your nan’s favourite brekkie show Sunrise to reaffirm that his government would not be supporting drug-checking measures, advising instead that festival-goers just, “don’t do it. That is the best form of safety you can do. Don’t take the pills and you’ll be fine.”
Oh OK. Problem solved you guys.
And if you do take the pills and overdose? His government will shut down every music festival in the state before they ever consider giving the thumbs up to pill-testing, which he told Sunrise would be “tantamount to condoning illegal drugs”.
As SMH points, Baird’s latest display of “hardline machismo” effectively rules out the possibility of the initiative being trialled at the Sydney leg of Stereo, which is expected to be held this December.
Festival organisers Totem OneLove Group this week announced their full support for pill testing inside the Stereosonic grounds, but said it was contingent on the NSW government coming on board.
So no dice, then.
One of the leading proponents of pill-testing, Will Tregoning of harm reduction organisation Unharm, was one of the loudest voices calling for a major rethink on the state’s “war on drugs” following a spate of fatal and close-call overdoses at Aussie music festival’s this summer just past.
He recently told inthemix that his and other pill-testing activists’ “main priority” is for their trials to “go ahead peacefully”, and for that to happen, all they need is the blessing of government and a “formal directive to police to exercise discretion”.
Which means the government doesn’t need to spend a single cent of taxpayers’ money on the service, all they need to do is – you know – try not to arrest the people running it or using it, in the same way that syringe services and injecting rooms are allowed to operate without police raids.
In fact, as Tregoning has also previously said, the legal service of NSW Police advised in a 2005 report that toxicologists doing pill-testing at events were unlikely to be liable for charges of drug possession because they “would not hold the drug for long enough to have control of it”.
However, NSW police minister Troy Grant contradicted this advice in an interview with your grandad’s favourite radio station 2UE this week, warning that the people running pill-testing services could be charged with possession or even manslaughter.
The NSW Government’s stalwart refusal to even consider alternative harm minimisation approaches to combat the dangers of recreational drug use fly in the face of calls from leading Aussie health groups, a number of drug policy experts, musicians such as Illy and Peking Duk, other top industry figures including Stereosonic founder Richie McNeil and even gutsy Labor MP Jo Haylen, who has deviated from her party’s official policy to advocate for pill-testing, drug amnesty bins and to ditch sniffer dogs at music festivals.
It also flashes a wrinkly old white male middle-finger in the direction of most punters, with almost 84% of more than 10,000 Music Feeds readers polled voting in favour of implementing pill-testing services at Australia’s music festivals: