Mike Baird says the government will crack down on music festivals following several overdoses this summer.
The subject of drugs and dance events has been a heated one this summer, sparked by two deaths at national festival Stereosonic last year and a further non-fatal overdose, along with 180 drug-related charges, at Sydney's Field Day on January 1st. Mr Baird spoke to the Daily Telegraph over the weekend, saying that "individuals need to take responsibility for their actions, but so do the organisers of these festivals."
He explained that his government will look at reviewing "the system for granting permits for public events" and that "if new rules and procedures place additional burdens and costs on organisers, so be it." Baird's sentiments were echoed by NSW Police Minister Troy Grant, who said that festivals "could potentially be shut down" if safety standards do not improve.
The two Stereosonic deaths reignited debate over whether pill-testing should be introduced to music festivals as a harm-minimisation strategy. Police Minister Grant told the ABC that "we're not going to set up a regime to test for something that's illegal to see if it's safe to ingest or not. We're not going to condone illegal drug-taking, full stop." Prominent emergency specialist at Calvary Hospital in Canberra Dr David Caldicott, however, has spoken in support of pill-testing and against Premier Baird's proposed restrictions.
Dr Caldicott, who compares the NSW state government's prohibitionist approach to drugs as the "ideological equivalent to climate change denialism," told the Sydney Morning Herald that this most recent proposal is "unlikely to have any effect whatsoever and it's probably going to cause more deaths." He predicts that dance events will continue regardless, suggesting that "you'll get what happened in the United States in the 1980s, which was a wide variety of unsupervised raves and a vast number of people getting hurt and killed."
Sydney's music community has been experiencing a turbulent couple of years since lockout laws were rolled out in the city. While the industry is hopeful that an impending government review of the laws—due to happen this February—may see the restrictions loosened or abandoned altogether, last week Mr Baird indicated otherwise. 9 News reports that, when announcing that lockouts would be lifted for New Year's Eve only, the Premier said "this is not an indication that we're relaxing the lockout laws—quite the opposite—we are maintaining them and doing everything we can...they are here to stay."