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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Greens back pill testing at festivals to save lives

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The Greens want the NSW Government to rethink its approach to pill testing at festivals. (file pic)
The Greens want the NSW Government to rethink its approach to pill testing at festivals. (file pic)

The NSW Greens have called on the premier Mike Baird and police commissioner Andrew Scipione to allow pills to be tested at festivals to prevent overdoses.

Police with sniffer dogs are a constant presence at music festivals around the northern rivers region, and elsewhere in the state.

Critics argue that young people using drugs are likely to consume what they have if they see police testing, and are also often unaware of the potency of the drugs they are consuming.

The Greens call follows a Four Corners episode this week indicating that heavy handed policing and a zero tolerance approach has no deterrent effect on drug taking.

Greens MP David Shoebridge.
Greens MP David Shoebridge.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge has written to the NSW premier and police commissioner calling for the urgent implementation of pill testing to at music festivals, yet in both instances they have passed the buck to a struggling police minister.

Mr Shoebridge said police minister Troy Grant had demonstrated he was ‘not up to the job of overseeing an intelligent evidenced based police response to drug use’, with his zero tolerance approach to pill testing labelled ‘wishful thinking, simplistic and rash’ by an international committee.

‘The Greens are calling for premier Baird to take this out of the hands of a clueless police minister and give pill testing a role in the suite of harm reduction strategies in use in NSW,’ Mr Shoebridge wrote.

‘If pill testing can save lives, why aren’t police being told to step back and let it happen?

‘Allowing pill testing is not a statement in support of drugs but it does unambiguously reduce the risk of harm and allow for young people to make informed decision.

‘We know that the police-driven war on drugs is failing – and that ideological approach is placing young people’s lives in jeopardy.

‘This is a law and order problem with a massive over-investment of $1.2 billion in police, courts and jails that needs to be re-directed to evidence-based harm reduction measures.

‘The evidence is clear that pill testing can remove at least some dangerous drugs from circulation.

‘Every time this happens is a win for safety and harm minimisation and it’s remarkable that premier Baird can’t see this.’

The Greens stance on pill testing follows calls last week for the government to reconsider its approach to drug driving in the state.

Mr Shoebridge has promised that he and Ballina MP Tamara Smith would be pushing for a parliamentary inquiry into the regime.



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  1. These pills are illegal, so to get them is be tested is by a trip to court by police.
    The only way testing will happen is to legalise illegal drugs and that won’t happen.

  2. Back in the 20’s alcohol was illegal by prohibition. Throwing money and police resources at it back then didn’t work so what makes you think such a heavy handed punitive approach to drugs will work now?

    Where there is demand, there will inevitably be supply and young people by nature will not do what they are told. Put these factors together and boom! Smart criminals have a business model. Prohibition fuels this business model and is the main reason why super potent drugs such as ice and the synthetic cannabis even exists. And the moment you crack down on these drugs, other synthetic variations will take their place and will be even harder to combat and detect.

    Drugs are drugs, whether it be alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, opiads etc etc. Decrimination and regulation and health treatments is the only real way anyone can gain some measure of control in this scenario. Doing so will also exclude the criminal elements from a large portion of their income.

    I do not condone drug abuse in any way and i too have a family with a child. But I’m not deluded enough to believe that he’ll grow up doing everything i say on a particular matter if all i got to say is “drugs are bad mkay..”

    Have a long hard think about where we would rather be.

    $1.2 billion spent in drug policing year on year and a worsening problem, or try to honestly save some lives with a proven approach.

    That $1.2 billion would sure go a long way in drug education, health care and harm minimisation tactics such as supervised drug testing.

    Trying the same thing and expecting different results is the true definition of insanity.


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