This will be the first time in the Victorian Parliament’s 163 year history that two parties will co-sponsor a bill in the upper house, so it’s a pretty big deal.
“This shows how serious an issue our two parties and our supporters take this,” said Reason Party Leader Fiona Patten.
“This isn’t about politics; young people have been dying. We know this measure will not only save lives but actually reduce drug use by promoting some of the most valuable drug education a young person can get. It’s backed up by evidence so why on earth wouldn’t we do this?”
The bill put forward will be set to establish a mobile pill-testing facility and a fixed site lab for drug analysis. Both sites would be reviewed after two years and have the potential for a four year license extension.
“If the government backs our pilot and it saves even one life next summer, it will be worth it,” says Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratman, who claims that cross-party support of the bill could see pill testing at major festivals introduced in 2020.
The politicians aren’t the only ones pushing for change. The Victorian Ambulance Union has suggested that confiscated drugs should be tested by chemists so warnings can be issued by text and social media when harmful substances are detected.
“We’ve all heard the mantra [that] drugs are illegal, drugs are illegal, drugs are bad, but people are still taking them so how do we get the message through to them in a way that actually makes them stop and not take the drug?” said union secretary Danny Hill.
“At these events where we have five or 10 or 15 overdoses, it can tie up that many ambulances over the period of a weekend, it can cause assaults on our members; the ambulance is not available to respond to other patients in the community so there really is a benefit (of publicly) in something like this,” he said.
NSW Deputy coroner Harriet Grahame made 28 recommendations after a lengthy inquest into six MDMA-related deaths at music festivals. One of her recommendations included a pill-testing trial, explaining that medically supervised drug checking wasn’t a magic solution but she was in “no doubt whatsoever” that there was enough evidence to support a trial.
The Victorian Government has repeatedly rejected the idea of introducing pill testing, so it’ll be interesting to see if the two parties coming together will make a difference – because obviously young people dying sure doesn’t.
Revisit our Musicology column on the NSW government’s attack on music festivals here.