MP backs pill testing

• Last year’s Fremantle Falls festival. File photo.

FREMANTLE federal MP Josh Wilson has backed calls for pill testing at WA festivals to save lives.

Over the past four months there have been four suspected drug fatalities at music festivals across Australia.

Last week WA health minister Roger Cook said there are no plans to let festivalgoers test illicit pills before swallowing them, but Mr Wilson says the current approach is not “working well” and needs to change.

“While it’s a matter for state governments to determine, I support the trial of pill-testing and linked counselling services at festivals in addition to better public awareness campaigns about the risks involved in taking drugs,” Mr Wilson told the Herald.

“I note the AMA President, Dr [Tony] Bartone, has been clear in his organisation’s support of pill-testing trials.

“It’s my longstanding view that we need a principally health-focused approach to drug-related harm, and we should be prepared to pursue reform based on trials and evidence in order to save lives and reduce drug-related violence and other crime.

“No one can look at the current state of affairs and say it’s working well.

“We need an holistic approach that is health-driven but of course includes properly resourced and targeted policing to ensure community safety.”

Mr Wilson’s comments come in the wake of Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt voicing his support for pill testing in the lead up to last weekend’s Falls Festival in the city.

Fremantle council is in the midst of creating a new strategy to tackle crime, with ideas like pill testing, injecting rooms for addicts and dry-out centres being floated at a community forum with locals, WA Police and Fremantle state MP Simone McGurk.

Pill testing was trialled late last year at a festival in the ACT and NSW Labor are considering its use.

Over the new year in Perth, festivalgoers were allowed to put illicit items in drug bins without penalty at the Origin Fields festival at Langley Park in Perth.

The Chook asked Ms McGurk if she was in support of pill testing at festivals: she said the WA government’s position on the issue was clear.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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