The organisation which planned to lead a now-canceled pill testing trial at next month’s Spilt Milk music festival has today disputed claims they hadn’t filed the necessary paperwork to carry out the harm reduction initiative, and said “pressure” from the Federal Government may have influenced the trial’s cancelation.

In a statement posted online yesterday, Spilt Milk said they had been awaiting an “operational plan, associated risk assessment, insurance and legal framework for… trialling of pill testing on federal land”, which they could pass along to the National Capital Authority (NCA), which oversees the use of Commonwealth land. Land like Spilt Milk’s Canberra festival grounds.

It is a tough day when something you have advocated for so strongly can’t quite make it over the line. Since the ACT…

Posted by Spilt Milk on Thursday, 12 October 2017

That’s despite the program already being given the green light by the ACT government days prior.

However, Gino Vumbaca of Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE) today said they had provided every piece of documentation requested by the Spilt Milk prior to Wednesday afternoon, when they were unexpectedly pressed to provide further information within a very strict timeframe.

“Less than 24 hours later, we got a call saying we’d missed the deadline, we didn’t even know we had one,” Vambuca told the Canberra Times.

“We were complying with every request, jumping through every hoop.”

STA-SAFE’s Dr David Caldicott also denied the consortium hadn’t contributed the relevant paperwork, instead claiming to the ABC that “I think what’s happened is that there has been pressure placed upon a promoter” to drop the pill testing trial.

Dr Caldicott questioned whether that alleged “pressure” took the form of federal intervention into the program, thanks to an opposition on ideological grounds.

He pointed to a September 28 letter from ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson wrote to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Local Government and Territories Fiona Nash, in which Hanson said the trial was a matter of importance “given the Commonwealth government’s anti-drug campaign, Minister Hunt’s recent comments against pill testing, and the prominence and nature of the venue”.

ACT Greens member Shane Rattenbury also subscribed to that viewpoint, saying in a statement that “the Canberra Liberals have instead used their back channels to undermine the ACT Government,” and that the decision to do so was “based purely on ideology and not on evidence.”

A spokesperson for Nash said she had nada to do with the decision.

NCA chairman Terry Webber this morning told ABC Radio that they hadn’t placed any timeframe restrictions on supplying the relevant documents, and that the decision to call off the pill testing trial rested solely with Spilt Milk and organiser Ryan Phillips.

Dr Caldicott and Vumbaca both said STA-SAFE had tried unsuccessfully to contact the NCA regarding the issue.

Dr Caldicott didn’t blame Phillips for any actions he may have taken to sideline the pill testing program, instead saying “he is trying to put together an event which other forces are happy to use to ensure pill testing in Australia doesn’t occur.”

PEDESTRIAN.TV has reached out to Spilt Milk and Phillips for comment.

As it stands, Spilt Milk will run without pill testing on November 25 at Canberra’s Commonwealth Park. STA-SAFE has vowed that should they remain barred from operating at Spilt Milk, they’ll try to offer their services at other festivals on Commonwealth land.

Source: ABC
Image: @Spiltmilk_au / Instagram