Tuesday 19 November 2019
Hansard of the Legislative Council

 Pill Testing


[6.06 p.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I was interested to hear about those measures being taken to safeguard the welfare of the young people at the music festivals.  Did you know we modern Australians seem to become expert in creating polarising debates on the issues, without the rigour of research or even imagination?

The debate over whether there should be pill testing at music festivals is a prime example.  On one side, we have some governments refusing even to accept there could be benefits in preventing young people poisoning themselves by consuming contaminated substances.

The aim of it here seems to be that testing drug substances amounts to condoning the taking of recreational drugs at music festivals while the other side of the argument is testing pills at music festivals could save lives.

The member for Murchison's motion speaks of inquests into six deaths at New South Wales music festivals.  It is arguable whether all those deaths would have been prevented had there been pill testing programs.  It is not saying all of them, but some of them might have been.

Basically, what the member for Murchison's motion is calling for is a medically supervised pill testing and drug checking pilot or trial in Tasmania.  Just forgetting about where our motion has gone with the amendments, I cannot see how such a trial, and I stress it would be a trial that was called for, would cause the sky to fall in.  I doubt it would have any effect on the number of young people who like to take drugs at music festivals.

Pill testing is easy.  Chemists can use portable testing devices which give a relatively quick and accurate result.  What seems to be ignored by those opposing a testing trial is the ability of young people to communicate through smart phones and other devices.  What would happen if some pills were found to be dangerous?  Word would get around almost instantly that the distributor of faulty pills should be avoided.  A pill-supplying charlatan would quickly go out of circulation.  The long‑term result would be that purveyors of dangerous pills would go out of business and lives would be saved.  So why not give it a go?

There is the argument that pill testing would be seen to condone the use of recreational drugs at music festivals.  They are there and they are not going away.  There are many informed and compassionate people on the side of testing or at least giving it a trial.

One is the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp.  She says she does not endorse anyone taking illicit drugs.  I will quote from a recent public statement -

... in the face of evidence that people are taking these drugs we simply cannot stick our heads in the sand. ... My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a child or loved one through drug use ...  If [pill testing] saves one young life it is worth doing.

It seems that the argument is between those who want to save lives and those who say pill testing is giving a stamp of approval to taking drugs.  I know what side I am on.  We must do everything we can to save young people at music festivals from accidentally poisoning themselves.  I give full support to the motion.