Opposing Pill Testing Is The ‘Climate Change Denial’ Of Drugs Policy

Another death at a NSW Festival, and again, talk turns to pill testing.

To say that a sense of déjà vu in this space is depressing understates the case. Opponents of pill testing -- now largely limited to pundits and politicians of both major shades -- have left the field of rational debate, descending to throwing their effluvium at the walls, pretending that it represents ‘ideas’, and hoping some of it will stick.

Characteristic of the exchanges is the observation that opponents really have no idea about what’s involved in pill testing. And that’s hardly surprising.

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After the tragic Defqon deaths, the Premier of NSW announced an Inquiry into Deaths at music festivals, and populated it with folk that she could depend on to agree with her.

A teenager died at Knockout Games of Destiny music festival, less than three months after two young people died at Defqon.1.  (Image:Facebook (HSU))

It was a panel that explicitly and openly refused to even consider pill testing as an option. That’s right; you read that correctly. Not just not ‘consider the evidence in favor, and act upon it’-- refuse to hear it, like a two-year-old child, with their fingers in their ears, shouting ‘lalalalalalalala’ because their parents want them to eat their veggies.

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At least in Victoria, there was a Parliamentary Inquiry that considered the evidence, and recommended pill testing, allowing the government of the day to reject it seemingly on a whim.

The cunning plan of the NSW Opposition is to have another Public Inquiry. Not that one is needed, but perhaps there is some sort of badge system within their ranks that confuses a ‘get together’ that passes a few motherhood resolutions that are too vague to act upon as ‘actionable policy’.

The NSW Government will not adopt pill-testing as part of new music festival regulations to combat drug deaths.  (Image: AAP)

But does it matter? Will ‘pill testing’ be a game changer in the upcoming NSW State election? Probably not on its own. But the inability of both NSW major parties to hold an honest conversation on the subject, with a demographic that is already pre-sensitised to lies, will not go unnoticed.

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What they might find is that this demographic, combined with emerging and very well organized campaign groups, will find someone who they feel WILL represent them. This sort of behavior is fertile ground for minor parties.

If it doesn’t look like either of the major parties have the moxie or common sense to introduce evidence-based policy any time soon, where is the ‘wiggle point’?

It will probably need a group of very clever independent individuals with an eye for evidence. Last month, the Asia Pacific Society of Coroners held its conference in Canberra, and had an entire session on ‘pill testing’. There are several ‘matters’ under consideration by coroners around Australia right now, and they are far more likely to appropriately interpret and act upon the evidence than those simply trying to avoid it.

Sydney teenager Callum Brosnan died after taking a lethal dose of illegal substances at the Knockout Games of Destiny festival in December. (Image: Facebook)

It was not political leadership that resulted in the formation of Victoria’s first medically supervised injecting room -- it was the weight of evidence and coronial recommendations.

Opposing pill testing is the ‘climate change denial’ of drugs policy.

But if climate change were a medical condition, it would be elevated blood pressure, or high cholesterol -- often invisible to the casual observer, but catastrophic over time, if ignored.

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‘Music festival harms’ are far more acute, and happening right now. They’re more akin to asthma -- seasonal, predictable, fatal if managed with stupidity -- and with a readily available cure.

The medical profession knows how to deal with this sort of thing: through public health and preventative medicine.

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Politicians who think that saturation policing and sniffer dogs will solve the problem are some weird auntie, who wants to cure ‘what ails you’ with worm tea.

The public deserves far better than this crop of clowns, more interested in their own political survival than in the actual survival of young Australians. It deserves better than unfounded hunches, and unsubstantiated opinions underpinning something as important as health policy.

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One is left with only two possible conclusions in recent political interpretations of pill testing:  they are either too slow to grasp a fairly simple concept, or they understand the concept, and for some perceived marginal political gain, are prepared to lie about it.

Either scenario should disqualify them from any position where their inaction results in more of the same outcomes -- and in the lead up to the opportunity for change, the public is waking up to that idea.