Pill testing consortium offers indemnity for trial at Groovin the Moo
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Pill testing consortium offers indemnity for trial at Groovin the Moo

The consortium behind plans to conduct Australia's first legal pill-testing trial at Groovin the Moo in Canberra says it has offered the promoter legal indemnity if they are allowed to test drugs at the festival.

Cattleyard Promotions are yet to agree to the drug-checking pilot despite the Canberra leg of the festival taking place on April 29.

There are doubts pill testing will go ahead at Groovin The Moo at the University of Canberra on April 29.

There are doubts pill testing will go ahead at Groovin The Moo at the University of Canberra on April 29. Credit:Melissa Adams

The ACT government, ACT Policing and the University of Canberra have given their support to the trial, but the promoters are the "final piece of the puzzle", Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure pill testing goes ahead at Groovin the Moo. The ACT government is being proactive and working with stakeholders to address any questions or concerns so we can see this happen, and I hope we have a final outcome soon," Ms Fitzharris told Fairfax Media.

A letter from Ms Fitzharris to Cattleyard last month revealed the promoter's support for the trial was "contingent" on a number of demands being met.

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A spokeswoman for Cattleyard said they needed clarification on who was legally liable for the trial.

"As pill testing has never been trialled before in Australia, the decision to implement it is not solely ours, as there are multiple stakeholders involved in undertaking the exercise," she said.

"Some of the complexities that we are working through involve clarification around patron protection and legal ramifications for those who participate. We are also working through guidelines relating to insurances and liability."

However Dr David Caldicott from the consortium said they had offered a legal waiver to Cattleyard on any issue related to pill-testing.

"That's been on the table since February," Dr Caldicott.

However, Dr Caldicott said the promoter wanted blanket indemnity.

"We may as well be asked to cover an electrical fault on stage," Dr Caldicott said.

"We have no control over anything else at the festival. We do think it's reasonable to take on liability as far as the pill testing is concerned, no problem, but to extend beyond that strikes me as something of a grab."

On the issue of patron protection, Dr Caldicott said it had been made clear to Cattleyard on a number of occasions festivalgoers who presented to the health tent for pill-testing would not be targeted by police.

However, patrons breaking the law in other situations, such as "coming in with a suitcase of heroin and setting up shop on the corner of the stage" or entering the health tent with "explosives strapped to their chest threatening someone" would be targeted by police, Dr Caldicott said.

"Blanket indemnity would cover that rubbish situation," he said.

Ms Fitzharris told Triple J's Hack program on Monday ACT Policing could protect the community "without chasing people who are going into a health tent".

"In that health tent they might be sitting down for a bottle of water, or they might have stubbed their toe, or they might undertake pill testing," Ms Fitzharris said.

"There’s no reason for the police to go into the health tent for any other reason than if they felt particularly at the request of those operating the health tent, that there was a community safety risk."

She said the territory government would remain in discussions with the promoter about the trial "until the very last moment".