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Pill testing debate continues across Victoria


Morgan Liotta


13/11/2019 2:03:35 PM

The State Government remains opposed to a trial, despite the proposal being backed by the Melbourne Lord Mayor and Victorian ambulance union.

Sally Capp and Daniel Andrews
L–R: City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews remain on opposite sides of the debate. (Images: AAP)

Premier Daniel Andrews has again rejected the proposal to test drugs at music festivals, reiterating that his government’s policy will not change and supports the stance of the Victoria Police.
 
‘There’s nothing wrong with a debate about these things, that’s fine, but we’ve been very clear ... even so-called “pure” versions of these drugs can kill you. We won’t be sending a green light to people to use them,’ Premier Andrews said.
 
City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp, however, is supportive of a pill-testing trial, saying it is ‘worth doing’ if it saves even one young life.
 
Following a Melbourne City Council vote this week, Mayor Capp endorsed a submission to the State Government backing draft legislation by Greens MP Tim Read to trial a free mobile service and onsite drug analysis laboratory at Victorian music festivals.
 
‘I do not endorse anyone taking illicit drugs, but in the face of evidence that people are taking these drugs we simply cannot stick our heads in the sand,’ Mayor Capp said.
 
The state’s ambulance union agrees that lives could be saved under a pill-testing scheme. The union submitted its own proposal to the Victorian Government, highlighting that such a trial could potentially reduce assaults on paramedic workers and free up their workload to respond to other emergencies.
 
The union also put forward a proposal of a so-called ‘back-of-house’ drug testing system where police and security will confiscate drugs that then get tested. An increase in the use of digital technology is essential to ensure information about these unsafe batches of drugs is immediately sent via text message to people attending the festival.
 
‘[By] using digital technology we can get messaging out to the people at the festival very quickly that the drugs that they’re about to take might have tested positive to chemicals, solvents and poisonous substances ... and hopefully in doing so convince them not to take it, dispose of it and eventually save their lives,’ Victorian ambulance union General Secretary Danny Hill said.
 
The recent NSW Coroner’s report following an inquest into the drug-related deaths of festival goers between December 2017 and January 2019 found ‘compelling evidence’ that the implementation of pill testing would support behavioural change and potentially save lives.
 
The NSW Government remains firmly opposed to pill testing. South Australia and Western Australia have also rejected support for pill-testing trials.
 
Despite successful trials in the ACT, as well as growing support from the public, political leaders remain reluctant to implement the measure.
 
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