The death of a Commonwealth Bank worker at an electronic music festival in Sydney has reignited the debate over pill testing at events with one charity boss blasting the government for having blood on their hands.
Kieran Ngo, 26, died after he took a pill at the Transmission Festival which was held at the Sydney Showground on Saturday afternoon.
He is believed to have taken MDMA and NSW Police are now investigating whether a bad batch of the drug is spreading through Sydney, as 12 others were also rushed to hospital after also taking pills.
In light of Mr Ngo’s tragic death, Greg Chipp, managing director at Drug Policy Australia, slammed the government for being ‘culpable’ for the deaths of young people by not having pill testing at festivals.
Pill testing involves analysing illicit drugs to find out what possibly harmful substances are present.
There has long been a push to introduce pill testing at festivals, nightclubs and similar places but the government has steadfastly rejected calls.
Kieran Ngo, 26, died after he took a pill at the Transmission Festival which was held at the Sydney Showground
His death has reignited the debate over pill testing at events with one charity boss slamming the government
Greg Chipp, managing director at Drug Policy Australia, slammed the government for being ‘culpable’ for the deaths of young people by not having pill testing at festivals
The NSW Police Minister previously ruled out allowing pill testing at the state’s festivals, insisting ‘there is no safe way to take drugs.’
However, Mr Chipp told Daily Mail Australia that the testing could stop the ongoing tragedy of young deaths at festivals.
‘The ongoing tragedies occurring with the loss of young people using pills could easily be stopped if the pills were vetted,’ he said.
‘The government needs to take care of the health of its citizens. They know hundreds or thousands of Australians will take drugs, some with dangerous substances, but their wilful refusal to introduce pill testing makes them culpable for the tragedies.
‘They need to stop burying their head in the sand and do something. They are acquiescing to this ongoing tragedy and I’m speaking to Dominic Perrottet directly here.
‘The government has a judgmental attitude to drug users and keeps going for the politically palpable move.
‘The Canberra trial was a resounding success and proved pill testing would work.’
Mr Perrottet’s office and the Ministry of Health have been contacted for comment.
Drug overdoses at Australian festivals are a common occurrence despite authorities introducing drug bins and using sniffer dogs.
In October, 18 people at two music festivals were rushed to hospital after suffering overdoses.
More than 70 people were arrested at Knockout Outdoor at Sydney Olympic Park and Listen Out at Centennial Park for drug possession and a further four for drug supply.
Medical teams at the festival treated more than 130 people with complaints related to drug use and heat exhaustion
Those arrests came despite amnesty bins being set up at both events for revellers to discard drugs without the fear of being arrested.
The policy was introduced as a recommendation of a coronial inquest handed down in 2020 into the deaths of six young people at music festivals in NSW between December 2017 and January 2019.
Alex Ross-King, 19, Joshua Tam, 22, Callum Brosnan, 21, Diana Nguyen, 21, Joseph Pham, 23 all died at festivals after taking MDMA or ecstasy.
Five of the six festival goers also had other illegal substances in their system.
The inquest also recommended a number of other measures including pill testing, scrapping the use of sniffer dogs and reducing the number of strip searches.
The government rejected all recommendations, instead using police sniffer dogs at festivals since to deter drug use.
NSW Police Minister Paul Toole previously rejected calls to introduce pill testing, claiming ‘there is no safe way to take drugs.’
‘Tragically, too many families and communities are living with the consequences of people thinking there is a safe way to take illegal drugs,’ he told The Australian.
‘I wholeheartedly back the work of the NSW Police Force trying to stop people supplying and taking illegal drugs before it is too late. That includes the use of drug detection dogs.
‘The NSW Government last month announced the single-largest investment in evidence-based alcohol and other drug (AOD) services in the State’s history, noting that illicit drugs will remain illegal.
‘I cannot be clearer: there is no safe way to take drugs.’
Pill testing facilities allow a person in possession of a drug to test it to find out what substances are inside.
They are usually set up in places where drugs are most likely to be used – including music festivals, clubs or dance parties.
They are used in places like Toronto and New Zealand but have been shunned in Australia.
However, a six-month trial began in Canberra last year, and found that 40 per cent of cocaine samples tested did not actually contain cocaine.
The six-month pilot program which began in late July at the City Community Health Centre in Canberra enables users to test their recreational narcotics free of charge in a bid to reduce the risk of overdose.
CanTEST tested more than 150 samples in two months, of which 34 were discarded once the owner understood the contents of their drug.
September results revealed a cocaine sample was found to contain dimethyl sulfone, a pain relief and anti-inflammatory drug, while another sample believed to be methamphetamine was actually sugar.