Ahead of April’s Groovin the Moo music festival, the Greens have again called for routine pill testing in the ACT.
It comes following the success of the ACT’s second pill testing trial at Groovin the Moo in April last, which saw at least seven potentially fatal substances binned, rather than consumed-and many saying that they would reconsider their drug use.
Despite receiving national attention for our leadership on this issue, pill testing in Canberra is by no means a guarantee – even at music festivals.
In a move that the Greens described as a “real missed opportunity”, pill testing did not go ahead at Spilt Milk music festival in November.
“Canberra is proof positive that pill testing can help save young lives,” ACT Greens spokesperson for Drug Law Reform Shane Rattenbury said today.
“That said, we can’t just keep relying on different festival organisers to each individually come to the table on pill testing – or on the support of the Federal Government to allow pill testing to go ahead on Commonwealth land.
“Young people and the Canberra community more broadly now rightly expect the ACT to continue to support pill testing at large festivals, and I hope that the ACT Government will continue to support this potentially life-saving approach.
“But we also know that people consume illicit ‘party drugs’ outside of music festivals.
“The solution is simple – we need to make pill testing routinely available throughout the year.
“We know that the war on drugs hasn’t worked. We have to accept that despite all the efforts on enforcement and education, some young people still take illicit drugs.
“If we’re to do everything we can to protect young lives from the risk of unnecessary harm that comes with illicit drug use, we need mobile pill testing sites at music festivals – as well as a fixed pill testing site in place for the rest of the year – to help protect young lives from harm, year-round.”
Greens work to realise pill testing in the ACT
- In March 2016, the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury put forward a motion in the Assembly calling on the ACT Government to “focus its drug policies to prioritise treatment and harm minimisation and emphasise a policy approach that treats personal illicit drug use as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue” – a vote lost 16-1, that received no support from either of the other parties;
- In August 2016, the ACT Greens launched a campaign to ‘Keep Canberra Safe’, listing pill testing as an election commitment ahead of the ACT election.
- In mid-2017, the ACT Greens tabled a petition of more than 1,000 signatures in support of pill testing in the ACT.
- In July 2017, the ACT Government then announced that a pill testing trial would go ahead.
- In April 2018, the ACT’s first pill testing trial went ahead at Groovin the Moo.
- In October 2018, the ACT Greens encouraged music festivals in neighbouring NSW to consider holding these events in Canberra – bringing tourism and safer events to the Territory.
- In April 2019, a second successful pill testing trial went ahead at Groovin the Moo.
- In May 2019, the ACT Greens called on the Government to fund pill testing at music festivals – so that the medical experts did not need to volunteer their time for what is a potentially life-saving service.
- In August 2019, the ACT Greens again called for a static pill testing trial to be established in the ACT.
- In June 2019, a study from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia found that festival attendees are willing to pay an average $12 subsidy for pill testing services.
Drug law reform – The Greens leading the way
The Australian Greens have led the way on the push for pill testing across Australia, labelling opposition from the other parties to this important harm reduction measure as “wilful ignorance“.
In August 2019, Victorian Greens MP Dr Tim Read brought forward a Bill calling for two pill-testing services to be trialled for two years: a free mobile pill-testing facility to be used at festivals and a fixed-site lab for drug analysis. The Bill did not receive support from Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews.
In November 2019, the NSW Greens called on the Government to commit to a pill testing trial following recommendations from a landmark inquest into drug deaths at music festivals – a move unsupported by NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian.