Tough New Laws For Drug Dealers Responsible For Music Festival Deaths
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said a new offence of drug supply causing death will be created, following "expert" panel recommendations.
A new law will be created by the NSW Government holding drug dealers responsible for any deaths they cause at music festivals, the NSW Premier said on Tuesday.
On-the-spot fines will also be issued during trials for people caught in possession of illegal substances at these events.
“Music festivals are a significant part of NSW’s entertainment scene, and an important part of our economy -- but we owe it to young people, and their parents and families, to make sure they are safe,” Berejiklian said.
The measures are the result of findings from an "expert" panel put together following the deaths of two young people at the Defqon.1 event last month.
A 23-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman died in Nepean Hospital after collapsing at the music festival in Penrith.
The panel consisted of Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant, and Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority Chair, Philip Crawford.
No entertainment or arts bodies were represented, despite MusicNSW heavily petitioning the Premier for inclusion.
One of the report's recommendations stated the new law should only target drug dealers, rather than friends "tasked with obtaining or sourcing drugs for a group of friends [who are] then reimbursed, rather than seeking profit."
Berejiklian said she imagined the new offence of drug supply causing death would have a sentence of anywhere between 10-25 years prison time.
David Shoebridge, Greens Spokesperson for Justice and Policing, said he believed the penalty plus extra policing meant more young lives will be lost.
"This is a government that wants to be seen to be doing something. They’ve adopted an even tougher law and order approach, despite the fact this hasn’t worked in the past and contradicts all expert evidence and advice," he told ten daily.
"This new offence may have seriously disproportionate outcomes where a young person who has shared a bad pill with friends faces 25 years in jail; this will actively deter young people from seeking help," he continued.
The Premier's office made clear the proposed law is for dealers who make a profit from selling the drugs leading to a festival patron's death. Young people who share illicit substances with friends will still be subject to existing legislation.
When the Government's expert panel was announced following the Defqon.1 deaths, the Premier stated the merits of pill testing would not be considered. This is despite positive feedback from federal politicians after Australia's first drug-checking trial at Canberra's 'Groovin' The Moo' in May.
"If we are going to get serious about harm minimisation, then pill testing at a health facility at a music festival without fear of police needs to be an option," Labor backbencher Senator Lisa Singh said.
"How many funerals do we have to go to of people that have taken these substances and found out they're not what they're sold?" Liberal backbencher Warren Entsch said.
At Tuesday's conference, Police Commissioner Fuller said the idea that pill testing at festivals would save lives “is a myth”.
This is in contrast to former Australian Federal Police boss Mick Palmer, who said he backed pill testing during a recent address to the National Press Club.
Palmer said it wasn't about “going soft” on drugs, rather it was "admitting what we have is not working.
“If this was a business, we’d have gone broke a long, long time ago," he stated.
"The answers lie in working with the industry, talking to young people and working towards decriminalisation -- not giving the police commissioner a bunch of new laws and new powers," Shoebridge said.
"A far better alternative is keeping those young people safe in the first place, that is what pill testing and harm minimisation measures can do."
The Premier's office aims to have the legislation approved by the Attorney-General by next month, "in time for summer festival season".