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Pill Testing at Public Events

30 April 2019

Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON

As Minister for Health, your primary responsibility is to keep people safe, healthy and to prevent avoidable deaths. The ACT health minister wrote to you in April, inviting you, or a representative, to the Groovin the Moo Festival to observe their second pill-testing trial in operation. Last weekend representatives from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, but not Tasmania, observed 230 festival-goers test their substances, of which seven were found to contain the potentially lethal methylpentane. All six people binned the pills at the test site and one said they planned to dump it later, so there were at least seven people who did not put their lives in danger over the weekend because of the health and education service that you say sends a very mixed and risky message. You now know that pill testing saves lives. When will you finally put the health of festival-goers ahead of your own ideology?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, the Government could not be clearer on this. We have also been very consistent that we believe that such an initiative can send a very dangerous and risky message to anybody who thinks that submitting a pill - an illegal drug they have purchased illegally - through a testing regime, which may or may not identify constituent components and chemicals of that drug, and then the person getting a signal from the testing regime that it does not contain rat poison, is that the person thinks the drug is now safe to take. That is the danger. That is the point we have made very respectfully and very honourably.

That is the consistent position of this Government. We do not support quality controlling illegal drugs pushed by drug pushers. We have not and will not be accepting invitations to do so on their behalf.

Dr Woodruff - You don't want to listen, do you? That's the point. You need to open your eyes.

Mr FERGUSON - The Government does listen. You are wrong on that point. We recognise that the use of dangerous drugs is a serious health issue. There is no safe use of an illicit drug.

Over many years, through this parliament, Liberal and Labor governments have always maintained the robustness of the drug regime, which is the uniform code for scheduling prescription medications. We have always maintained that drugs that are provided to consumers should be safely prescribed by qualified medical practitioners and dispensed by qualified pharmacists. That is our position.

Dr Woodruff - This is the qualified drug analysis testing site with qualified educators. They change people's minds.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - If you are interested in saving lives, listen to this: there have been cases where people have died after using the illicit drugs that they were told were pure. Offering a testing service that would suggest that illegal drugs are safe because they do not have additives in them is very irresponsible and very dangerous. That is why this House rejected your bill to change the law around these issues.

We do not support illegal drug testing. That is our consistent position. We will always do more in supporting people to, first, say no to drugs. Second, for people who are trapped and addicted to drugs, we have just opened 31 new rehab beds in Tasmania, a 50 per cent increase in the support that was being provided previously. It is now up and running around the state. We are all about supporting people from a health perspective as well as from a police perspective.