The leader of the ACT Greens, Shane Rattenbury, has invited the controversial music festival Defqon.1 to hold future events in Canberra, in the wake of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's vow to never allow it again in NSW.
Ms Berejiklian's vow followed the shocking news of the death of two young people, three people put into critical care and hundreds of others needing medical treatment at the event due to multiple suspected drug overdoses.
Ms Berejiklian said she would never allow the festival to go ahead again anywhere in Sydney or elsewhere in NSW, saying young lives had been lost for no reason.
But advocacy groups including STA-SAFE, which ran the first pill testing trial in Australia at this year's Groovin' the Moo festival in Canberra, have urged the NSW government to reconsider its zero tolerance approach to drug policy, arguing pill testing may have saved lives at Defqon.1.
Mr Rattenbury on Friday wrote to the festival's organiser, Q-Dance, offering the ACT as a potential future venue for the dance festival, writing the territory government might also allow for pill testing to be undertaken, if the offer was taken up.
"Following the disappointing response from the NSW government in relation to the extremely sad news of the deaths of two people who attended your Defqon.1 festival recently, I would like to encourage you to consider relocating future festivals and events to Canberra where a pill testing facility may be established to minimise drug harm for festival patrons," the letter reads.
At Groovin' the Moo, 128 people used the service. Tests on pills and powders found 85 different substances, including the highly toxic N-Ethylpentylone (ephylone), which has been responsible for a number of mass overdoses around the world.
The tests also found some instances of unusually high purity ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and even paint particles in the substances tested.
Debate is now underway on the next potential event in Canberra where testing could be completed again, after the National Capital Authority refused to allow testing for this year's Spilt Milk festival, which is usually held on land controlled by the Commonwealth government.
On Saturday, hundreds of Canberra turned out to a protest against the authority's decision, urging the NCA to reconsider the move.
The ACT government returned fire, saying it might consider offering pill testing services near the festival on territory-controlled land, but Mr Rattenbury is concerned that option would not be as effective as offering it inside the festival itself.
While pill testing is undertaken at events and health clinics across Europe, it remains a controversial practice in Australia despite evidence of its potential to minimise harm and reduce illicit drug-taking.
The ACT's police service also backed the first trial and supports it being trialled again in the future, particularly after it helped authorities identify new drugs they were not aware were actually circulating in Canberra.
"The Greens want to do our best to ensure festival-goers have a good time in the safest ways possible, rather than taking avoidable risks," Mr Rattenbury's letter reads.
"We hope that you are encouraged by the success of Canberra’s initial trial, and we look forward to working with you in bringing Defqon.1 to the ACT."
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