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Pill Testing Advocates Push For Change, Following Defqon.1 Deaths

There are renewed calls for pill testing to be introduced at Australian music festivals, after two people died after attending the Defqon.1 festival in Sydney on Saturday.

With three people still in critical condition following a series of suspected overdoses at the festival, pill testing advocates have launched a renewed push against the New South Wales Government’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach and Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s calls to stop the festival from taking place in NSW ever again.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale took to Twitter to describe the Defqon.1 deaths as “more tragic, preventable loss of life”.

“Rather than shutting down the festival the Premier should be open to the evidence. Pill testing saves lives,” he said, as his Greens colleague David Shoebridge shared a similar sentiment.

Speaking with Channel Seven, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Dr Alex Wodak, said, “Pill testing would have helped. It wouldn’t have eradicated the risk, but it would have certainly reduced it, and I think that’s what we should be doing.

“The Premier has got zero tolerance to drugs. I’d prefer her to have zero tolerance to preventable deaths of young people.”

Meanwhile, Dr David Caldicott — he’s part of the STA-SAFE Consortium which ran a successful Aussie-first pill testing trial at the Canberra leg of Groovin The Moo in April — has pointed out that while the ACT Government was initially opposed to pill testing, it “kept an open mind” and eventually “introduced evidence-based policy”.

He has called on other states and territories to following in the ACT’s footsteps in order to prevent further deaths.

Meanwhile, Premier Berejuklian has claimed that pill testing at music events is “not a solution”.

“Anyone who advocates pill-testing is giving the green light to drugs. There is no such thing as a safe drug and unfortunately when young people think there is, it has tragic consequences,” she said.

“I’m absolutely aghast at what’s occurred [and] I don’t want any family to have to go through the tragedy that some families are waking up to this morning — it’s just horrible to think about.”

NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner, Allan Sicard, said there were 180 uniformed and undercover police officers at Defqon.1 on Saturday, and 20 detectives on standby.

“What we can’t do is be in people’s heads, be in people’s decision-making processes when they decide to take illicit drugs,” he said. “Police can only do so much.”

He also said it was too early to say whether the same drug was responsible for the deaths and hospitalisations, but said toxicology reports were being fast-tracked and should be ready later this week.

Saturday’s two Defqon.1 deaths follow the death of 26-year-old Nigel Pauljevic at the festival in 2015 and 23-year-old James Munro in 2013.

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 Groovin The Moo trial.

The final report from Groovin The Moo’s Canberra trial deemed the trial an “overwhelming success”, with 83 per cent of users rating the service as ‘very good’ and 13 percent rating it as ‘good’.

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