Gladys Berejiklian has indicated her government would "consider it" if evidence showed lives would be saved.
Her statement comes after two festival fatalities over the New Year's period caused by suspected drug overdoses. 22-year-old Josh Tam died on December 29th after consuming an "unknown substance" at Lost Paradise, just north of Sydney, the same day as a 20-year-old attendee at Beyond The Valley in Victoria was rushed to hospital under similar circumstances, dying on Tuesday.
A further four non-fatal overdoses were recorded at Sydney's Field Day event on January 1st, amidst 195 drug-related arrests, while Falls Festival alerted ticket holders about "dangerous orange pills" in circulation.
Speaking to the media this week, Premier Berejiklian said, "If there was a way in which we could ensure that lives were saved through pill testing we would consider it." Although adding the caveat that "there is no evidence provided to the government on that" and that "pill testing gives people a false sense of security," the statement suggests a softening in tone from the NSW state government's hardline stance on the issue that previously had Berejiklian insisting against testing and calling for the permanent shutdown of Sydney hardstyle event Defqon.1 following two drug-related deaths.
NSW Labor leader Michael Daley responded to the two most recent deaths with a shift in his party's policy, which had also previously mirrored Berejiklian's government.
"Pill testing should not be off the table," he said in a statement, indicating that his party would commit to holding a "drug summit" if they were to win the upcoming state election in march. Victorian Mental Health Minister Martin Foley, meanwhile, confirmed that his government would remain steadfast against testing, saying "advice from Victoria Police tells us it can give people a false, and potentially fatal, sense of security about illicit drugs."
So far the only Australian state to trial pill testing has been the ACT, with a first attempt at local festival Groovin' The Moo hailed an "overwhelming success." Since then there have been five deaths at festivals around the country from suspected overdoses, leading people like former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer to urge other state governments to "at least have the courage to run a trial and go from there. Instead of 'Just Say No', how about we say 'Just Say No more kids dying on our watch?'"
For more on drug policies and music around the world, read Dr. Luis-Manuel Garcia's in-depth feature.