WA Premier Mark McGowan: "I think [pill testing] could actually risk lives."
While WA has largely dodged festival deaths, the heat on our politicians to introduce pill testing is still on.
Header photo by Perrywinkle Photography.
There's been a lot of talk about pill testing this summer, and there's a reason why. The 2018/2019 festival season has horrifically seen the deaths of six people thus far, including five in New South Wales, with every death and hospitalisation increasing pressure on Australian government and health bodies to introduce pill testing programs at festivals. The most recent, at the Sydney leg of FOMO Festival over the weekend, came as the New South Wales government continue to argue against pill testing, claiming there is "no evidence the harm-minimisation strategy would save lives" despite international trials showing the exact opposite. "I want to make sure we look at every opportunity to reduce those deaths. I worry that something like pill testing could have the opposite effect," said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier in the week, suggesting that drug education was the key instead - despite being already widely implemented across schooling and despite drug-related information being dispersed at basically every festival already.
However, while the heat has been turned onto the New South Wales and Victorian government to allow pill testing in their respective states, there's been little discourse about the same in WA - with our last, widely-reported festival drug death being back in 2009. In saying that, however, it's no secret that drugs play a part in WA festivals - but don't expect pill testing to be introduced here anytime soon. WA Premier Mark McGowan announced this morning that he believes pill testing is in fact not a good idea, saying that if he "genuinely thought it would save lives it was a good idea, but I don't."
"If you're a young person going to a music concert, you hand a pill over and someone does some perfunctory test on a pill and says its ok, well then the idea that this person says 'well this is fine, I'll take this pill', it might be 40-degree heat, they might have a body weight of 45kg and they take that pill and how ever many others, I don't think that's a safe way of dealing with the situation," he continues. "If you want to analyse a pill properly, you've got to send it off to a laboratory, so some perfunctory analysis of a pill saying its okay, I just can't see that going to save lives. In fact, I think it could actually risk lives."
It comes as over in New South Wales, Ultra Australia - entering their second year - have called upon DanceWize NSW to aid in implementing pill testing at their upcoming event next month, calling on Berejiklian to allow the trial to take place. "The views of young people are clear — the moment you tell them ‘don’t take that pill kids’, they switch off," says NSW Users and AIDS Association CEO Mary Ellen Harrod. "They want real-world, practical measures that demonstrate that policymakers put their lives before politics."
Sign a petition calling for drug testing at festivals HERE.