News State NSW News Premier establishes festival panel, but rules out pill testing

Premier establishes festival panel, but rules out pill testing

drug deaths at Sydney festival
Two people died after suspected drug overdoses at the Defqon.1 festival in Sydney. Photo: Defqon1
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An “expert panel” has been created to advise the NSW government on drug-related deaths at festivals, but the premier says it won’t consider pill testing that many argue could save lives.

The three-person panel will consist of the NSW police commissioner, the state’s chief medical officer and the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chair.

The creation of the panel comes days after two people in their early 20s died, three more revellers were taken to hospital in a critical condition and hundreds of others fell ill at the weekend’s Defqon.1 music festival at Penrith.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday said the expert panel would consider increased penalties for drug dealers and how festival promoters could improve safety.

However, it won’t consider pill testing, despite the Australian Medical Association and other experts calling for a trial.

“We do not support pill testing,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

“We do not support a culture which says it’s OK to take illegal drugs.”

AMA president Tony Bartone on Monday said “proper co-ordinated clinical trials” were needed to see if pill testing did have a role to play.

Kieran Palmer from the Noffs Foundation told ABC TV evidence from overseas and Australian trials showed pill testing “works to reduce overall drug consumption at festivals, it reduces the harms associated with drugs and by extension it reduces deaths”.

That’s partly because revellers are often made aware their pills don’t contain what they think they did.