Over the weekend, a NSW Labor MP hijacked a debate on health policy at the party’s annual state conference to lambast the NSW Government’s widely criticised use of sniffer dogs at music festivals.
“The Baird government’s heavy handed approach doesn’t fix the problem,” Summer Hill MP Jo Haylen told the 850 delegates.
“Sniffer dogs are ineffective – they’re wrong three quarters of the time, causing unnecessary interactions between police and young people. Likewise, the intensified pressure of police at music festivals and events doesn’t stop young people taking drugs – it encourages them to take all their drugs to avoid arrest.”
Sadly, she’s not wrong; there’s not a festival season that goes by without news of at least one person dying at a music festival after taking illicit drugs. Last year’s Stereosonic festival saw two people die after taking illicit substances at the Sydney and Adelaide legs, prompting calls once-again for pill testing.
“It hurls people into the legal system for having the most minute traces of drugs in their system, but operates without a shred of evidence to prove it reduces the number of accidents.”
“The Coalition government continues to fudge the figures and invest limited police resources in a programme that is arbitrary, unreliable and invasive,” he said.
“The fundamental problem with the police roadside drug testing is that it has nothing to do with removing drug impaired drivers from the road. Testing for minute traces of just three illegal drugs at levels well below those that impair drivers is all about ideology and nothing to do with road safety.”
In her speech, Haylen referenced the last time NSW paved the way for drug harm minimisation: when medically supervised injecting rooms opened in King’s Cross in 2000, a move widely regarded as effective in minimising heroin overdoses.
“Rather than ruining lives with a criminal record or worse still, leaving people to take risks on their own, let’s be brave,” she said.
“Let’s make good evidence based on public policy and once again make NSW a world leader when it comes to harm minimisation.”