Hobart City Council Votes To Support Pill Testing At Festivals In Push To Protect Punters

Hobart City Council has passed a motion to support pill testing at music festivals and major events, with six votes for, and three against.

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Councillor Holly Ewin put forward the motion to “drug analysis services” at Hobart events and festivals at Monday’s council meeting, The Mercury reports.

The motion went on to call upon the Tassie state government to “commence the necessary action to facilitate” a pill testing trial, after the findings from the NSW coronial inquest into drug-related deaths at music festivals are released.

The rationale for the motion in the council’s agenda describes pill testing as a “health issue” and “harm minimisation strategy“, supported by a number of reputable medical organisations, including the Australian Medical Association.

A significant number of people attending festivals and venues in the City of Hobart take unlawful drugs contained in pills, powders and liquids. These substances can contain contaminants and uncertain strengths, which can lead to preventable harm and mortality. This harm can be easily avoided by implementing pill testing.

They point to the City of Port Phillip in Melbourne, who passed a similar motion in 2017, and have since pressured the Victorian state government to initiate a pill testing trial.

Throughout the process of having illicit substances tested by provider Pill Testing Australia and their team of qualified chemists and doctors, council stress punters are “never advised that it is safe to take drugs, consumption of drugs is never promoted, and people are not judged for the decisions they make in regard to drug use“.

Still, the council stopped short of offering to fund the initiative, with an amendment to the motion noting that Hobart would not have to pay for the service, but rather the cost would be borne by promoters.

Hobart is the home of such major festivals as last month’s Dark Mofo and Festival of Voices.

The City Council vote follows an unanimous vote in favour of the motion from the Culture, Events and Community Committee earlier this month.

But it’s unlikely that the Tasmanian Liberal state government will budge on its anti-pill testing position.

A government spokeswoman yesterday said:

We do not support pill testing. There is no safe use of any illicit drug and our concern is that a testing service indicating an illegal drug is free of certain contaminants sends a mixed and risky message.

Our focus must be on what we can do to further reduce the use of drugs. We have a number of preventive initiatives aimed at reducing harm and the Tasmanian Government will be continuing to work on the issue of substance abuse.