The Victorian Greens are defying the Labor Government's opposition to pill testing with a new plan to reduce overdoses and save lives at festivals.
On Wednesday morning the Greens first read a bill that would give medical and forensic experts an exemption from criminal charges to conduct lab-grade pill testing at major events.
“If Labor refuses to take action then we have no choice but to to step up and get this moving. We’re not going to just sit by and watch people overdose and die needlessly,” said Colleen Hartland, Victorian Greens spokesperson for Health.
“No one deserves to die because they took drugs. It’s incredibly frustrating to see Labor being so stubborn about taking action, they’re saying that these people’s lives don’t matter.
“We’ve asked Premier Andrews many times to bring in pill testing before the summer festival season, and he keeps refusing to despite all the evidence that it will save lives.
"We once again questioned him yesterday in parliament. We thought we'd give him a chance to change his mind considering he is finally listening to the experts when it comes to a supervised injecting centre, but he just continues to bury his head in the sand.
“We know that most people choose to throw out their drugs when lab-grade pill testing shows that they contain particularly harmful substances. It’s incredibly frustrating to see the government reject a plan that would see people voluntarily choosing to dispose of their drugs.
“Lab-grade pill testing is supported by former police commissioners, and corrections, legal, medical experts around the country. It’s been happening in Europe for a decade.
“Victoria is seriously lagging behind, and people are dying because of it. We’re determined to make this happen because at the end of the day this is about people’s health and keeping people safe.
Under the Greens’ proposed laws, people getting their drugs tested would also be exempt from criminal charges, and experts conducting the pill testing testing would be required to provide all data to Victoria Police and the Department of Health and Human Services for the purposes of harm minimisation.
The move comes after the Victorian Coroner reported a dramatic escalation in deaths from MDMA (ecstasy) last year. MDMA deaths have gone from one in 2012 to five in 2015, and spiking to 13 in 2016.
The Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Lab-Grade Pill Testing Pilot) Bill 2017 will be drafted with the assistance of health experts, and will be debated in the Legislative Council in early 2018.