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Australia's landmark festival pill testing operation will not go ahead

It seems political pressure from conservatives could be behind the disappointing news

  • 13 October 2017

Australia's first pill testing operation at a festival will not go ahead amid claims of political pressure from conservatives on organisers of Canberra's Spilt Milk.

The Labor Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government last month gave the landmark operation its tick of approval after months of negotiations with the Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE) consortium, which was to run the service.

But yesterday Spilt Milk organisers released a statement saying they had not received necessary documentation from STA-SAFE to conduct the operation on federal land, including an operational plan, risk assessment, insurance and legal framework information.

The festival said it needed to lodge its planning documentation to the National Capital Authority (NCA), from which it requires a permit to go ahead, and without the information from the consortium the pill testing operation could not proceed.

But harm minimisation advocate and STA-SAFE member Dr David Caldicott told ABC Radio the group had not received a request for further documentation.

"I think what's happened is that there has been pressure placed upon a promoter, who's a small businessman, and I think that's probably where the root of the problem lies," he told the ABC.

"We have provided every piece of documentation that has been requested."

Dr Caldicott pointed towards comments from ACT Liberal Party (Australia's conservatives) health spokeswoman Vicki Dunne in August stating:

"The Spilt Milk festival is at Commonwealth Park, which is on Commonwealth (federal) land. Pill testing will need Commonwealth Government approval and I doubt that they will give it."

The Liberal Party is in federal/Commonwealth government.

The ABC confirmed ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson (of the Liberal Party) wrote to federal ministers last month to bring pill testing on Commonwealth land to their attention.

The Australian Medical Association had released a statement saying it supported pill testing at Spilt Milk last month. Dr Caldicott said the consortium remained determined a pill testing trial would go ahead in the future in Canberra.

The disappointing news comes as police warn Australians of the unknown ingredients in pills sold as ecstasy, with 11 people hospitalised in Newcastle last weekend after taking 'blue Superman' pills.

Scott Carbines is Mixmag's Australian Digital Content Editor, follow him on Twitter

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