The two alleged drug-related fatalities over the weekend have reignited debate over pill-testing.
A man, 23, and a woman, 21, are alleged to have died from suspected drug overdoses at the long-running hardstyle festival, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, with three more people left in hospital in a critical condition. Ms. Berejiklian struck out at organisers of the event, saying, "I never want to see this event held in Sydney or New South Wales ever again. We will do everything we can to shut this down. I understand there were some deaths in the past, but to have at least two on one night when every assurance was given to those attending that it was a safe event—clearly it wasn't when so many people have succumbed."
Following the weekend's fatal outcome, the state government has doubled down on its hardline approach to pill-testing, with Ms. Berejiklian announcing that "anyone who advocates pill-testing is giving the green light to drugs. There is no such thing as a safe drug and unfortunately when young people think there is, it has tragic consequences." Meanwhile, Greens leader Richard Di Natale voiced his support for testing via Twitter, saying, "Rather than shutting down the festival the Premier should be open to the evidence. Pill testing saves lives." The Australian Medical Association has also countered the government's stance, with president Dr Tony Bartone telling Sky News that "it's an opportunity to try and inform about the dangerous consequences and try to give them education and access to rehabilitation in terms of trying to reduce their drug dependency."
The festival has also released a statement about the deaths and hospitalisations, writing that they are "deeply saddened by the tragic passing of two of their patrons at Nepean Hospital after attending the festival last night and would like to convey their sincerest condolences to their families and friends. Thoughts and prayers are also with the young man and woman who are still in a critical condition." The statement continues:
"We are disappointed at the number of reported drug related incidents, we have a zero-tolerance policy in relation to drug use at the festival. Festival organisers are working closely and cooperating with the authorities regarding the fatalities and the number of medical presentations made during the evening, a full investigation is currently underway.Earlier this year, the first state government-sanctioned pill-testing trial was carried out at Groovin' The Moo in the ACT, which was described as an "overwhelming success" in a report from NGO consortium STA-Safe. According to the Canberra Times, the report indicated that a significant number of the 83 samples successfully tested contained "fillers or cutting agents" or were identified as different chemicals altogether, with 42 percent of participants saying they would change their drug consumption. Despite the results and praise from experts, there are no new plans for testing at upcoming Australian events.
As this is a matter with the NSW Police and the coroner and out of respect for the families and friends we are not going to speculate on the cause of death and we will not be making any further statements or comments."