The debate around the potential benefits of pill testing continues to rage, following the deaths of five young people at music festivals.
A Greens MP who has openly admitted taking drugs has called on the NSW premier to “stop her moral crusade” against pill testing before another young person dies from music festival overdose.
In an op-ed written for the Sydney Morning Herald, Upper House MP Cate Faehrmann admits to taking “MDMA in my 20s and occasionally through my 30s and 40s".
“I’ve made the difficult decision to become the first Australian MP to publicly admit to having taken MDMA,” she tweeted.
“I know journalists, tradies, lawyers, public servants, doctors, police, and yes, politicians (most well into their forties) who have done the same.”
Speaking to SBS News, Ms Faehrmann said the "just say no" approach to drugs from the NSW government and police was obviously not working.
"I'm here admitting that when I was in my 20s, I was one of the young people who went to dance parties and took MDMA - the "just say no messages" were around then and I, like many people, ignored them," she told SBS News.
"It's obvious young people are still ignoring those messages - look at the facts, that messaging has failed, we need to be honest about that and have an honest conversation about drugs."
She said recent figures suggested about one in three people aged between 20 and 29 had taken drugs at least once, despite government and police messaging.
She urged Premier Gladys Berejiklian to give the greenlight to pill testing as a hazard reduction measure.
"I would say, Gladys, please stop your moral crusade and listen to the facts, look at the evidence," she said.
“It is so out-of-touch with millions of people’s reality that everyone has stopped listening,” she wrote, in the oped.
“Young people are not fools. They want us as politicians to ‘get real’ about illegal drugs. Their parents want us to stop the moral crusade and listen to the evidence.”
Ms Berejiklian has repeatedly ruled out pill testing, saying it would give a "green light" to young people to take illegal substances.
The 48-year-old MP’s comments come in the midst of what could be a crucial moment for pill testing.
Five young people died during the 2018-19 summer Christmas/New Year festival season, reigniting calls for pill testing.
Victorian MPs back pill testing
On Monday, a number of Victorian MPs are expected to call on Premier Daniel Andrews to reverse his decision to rule out trialing pill testing.
At least six crossbenchers – including Reason Party’s Fiona Patten, Greens leader Samantha Ratnam, independent Catherine Cummin, and Andy Meddick from the Animal Justice Party, are set to band together to put pill testing on the agenda.
Acting Premier Tim Pallas has reiterated that the government was not intending on changing its stance.
“It would create a false sense of security, if essentially we were allowing people to access pill testing, rather than say ‘don’t take illicit drugs',” he said.
Meanwhile, the mayor of a Melbourne council has proposed trailing the state’s first pill testing service.
“We are not condoning drug use, but yes, it is sort of putting up the white flag on the war on drugs, because the war on drugs has patently failed,” Port Phillip mayor Dick Gross told 3AW.
“Sometimes bans create problems, and mean people pursue the banned activity in a more unsafe way.”
The string of drug-related music festivals deaths over the summer has seen the calls for pill testing strengthen – with even the Australian Medical Association (AMA) getting behind the push.
In January, AMA President Dr Tony Barone said pill testing provides an opportunity for experts to have important conversations with drug users.
“It’s an opportunity to try and inform [them] about the dangerous consequences, and try to get an opportunity to give them education and access to rehabilitation in terms of trying to reduce their drug dependency,” he said.
“We have a serious problem, it is out of control and we need to have a look at a raft of solutions.”
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has written to state leaders to urge those against pill testing to reconsider their stance.
“We urge you to follow the lead of the ACT government in consulting with medical experts to establish pill testing trials in your state or territory,” they wrote in an open letter.