NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has once again misrepresented the process of pill testing at music festivals and disputed its benefits, telling a studio full of high school students the process may actually encourage harmful drug use.
Speaking on last night’s Q&A, which was dedicated to the concerns of tertiary students and featured several young Australians on the panel, Berejiklian said knowing precisely what is in an illicit drug may harm its users.
“I couldn’t live with myself if young people were given a false sense of security,” Berejiklian said.
“People say, ‘Oh, you might save one life’, but potentially you might take twenty others by giving people a false sense of security that a pill’s okay.”
The premier reiterated that it is “pure drugs” which can kill, not simply adulterated substances.
Berejiklian also pushed for professionals to provide drug advice for festival punters instead of testing their substances, and also vouched for having a “conversation” with young people about pill testing – after repeatedly ignoring conversations with peak Australian healthcare bodies who vouch for the efficacy and safety of pill testing.
Her statement was supported by the majority of the young panellists, but Gosford High School student Varsha Yajman said “I don’t think there’s been a way that we’ve really facilitated this conversation.”
Yajman pointed out that pill testing trials, like the successful operation at this year’s Groovin The Moo festival in Canberra, also provide literature and professional advice to those who take drugs.
“A lot of the time, they reevaluate their choices, they rethink whether they actually want to take this drug, and I think that those reevaluations are so necessary and they’re so vital.
“And they’re showing us that perhaps pill testing is the answer.”
Berejiklian’s appearance on the panel comes a day after Pill Testing Australia released its report on the April Groovin The Moo trial, which identified seven samples containing the potentially deadly substance n-ethyl pentylone before they could be consumed.
Among its other findings: in addition to the professional analysis offered to everyone who had their pill tested, nearly 20% of people who attended the pill testing tent for a brief intervention with peer support workers left with harm-reduction literature.
The Groovin The Moo trial was attended by NSW Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame, whose office is conducting an inquiry into a string of drug-related deaths at NSW music festivals.
If last night’s Q&A showing is anything to go by, Berejiklian might also drag her heels on those findings when they’re released in October.