Pill testing at Victorian music festivals could soon be a reality, with the Greens and Reason party set to introduce a bill that would create a pilot program as early as next year.
The bill which will be tabled in state Parliament on Tuesday would 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 licence extension.
It 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.
“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?”
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratman said cross-party support of the bill could see pill testing at major festivals introduced in 2020.
“If the government backs our pilot and it saves even one life next summer, it will be worth it,” Ms Ratman said.
Paramedics are also calling for pill testing at music festivals to alert Victorian revellers of dangerous drugs in real-time.
The Victorian Ambulance Union says drugs confiscated by police and security at events should be tested by chemists so warnings can be issued by text or social media when substances such as pesticides and industrial solvents 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?” union secretary Danny Hill told 3AW on Tuesday.
Mr Hill said he expected event organisers would have to pay for the testing, but also argued there was an element of public interest which should encourage government support.
“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 on Friday made 28 recommendations – including a pill-testing trial – after a lengthy inquest into six MDMA-related deaths at music festivals between December 2017 and January 2019.
Ms Grahame said medically supervised drug checking wasn’t a magic solution but she was in “no doubt whatsoever” there was sufficient evidence to support a trial.
“In my view, the evidence is compelling,” she told the NSW Coroners Court last week.
Adriana Buccianti, whose son died at a music festival in 2012 after consuming MDMA, urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s government to take heed of the Coroner’s recommendations.
“I think she (Berejiklian) needs to see and understand how that affects the family. Because it doesn’t just affect the family directly but also generations to come,” she told news.com.au.
The Victorian government has repeatedly rejected the idea of introducing pill testing.