Wednesday, 13 February 2019
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) over the 2018-19 summer, more than five people have died or been injured as a result of taking illicit drugs,
(ii) there is a real possibility that these deaths could have been prevented and harm reduced if pill testing services had been offered at music festivals and in the community,
(iii) best-practice pill testing models involve a consultation with a health practitioner about the content of the pill, and a person's choices about whether or not to consume illicit drugs,
(iv) pill testing services give health services critical information about what has been consumed and provide people with more information about what is in the pills that they are taking than they otherwise have access to,
(v) a large number of relevant medical professional organisations have declared their support for pill testing over the summer period, including the Royal College of Physicians, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Medical Association, and
(vi) members of Parliament from both the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party have expressed support for pill testing, but the leaders of both of the parties are refusing to consider these real and critically-important benefits; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to:
(i) urgently develop and implement a pill testing policy to prevent more deaths and harm, and
(ii) work with the medical community, community groups and all state and territory governments to implement existing models which demonstrably have worked and helped save lives.
The issue of pill testing is largely a matter for the states and territories. The Australian government supports decisions not to use illicit drugs and does not support pill testing as it could imply that illicit drugs are safe. All illicit drug use contains inherent risks, and even taking a known substance can result in unintended harm. It is also important to note that pill testing may not be able to identify all components in an illicit substance, and does not take into account any underlying health conditions a person may have, or interactions with any other substances or medications a person may have taken.
Labor has been saddened by the tragic deaths of Australians at music festivals this summer. We are committed to drug policies that complement law enforcement with harm minimisation, early intervention and effective treatment. As the Greens party knows, responsibility for this issue lies with each state and territory and their health, ambulance and police services. We note the leadership of the ACT Labor government, which has conducted Australia's only pill-testing trial, and New South Wales Labor, which will convene a summit on pill testing and other harm minimisation measures if it wins the upcoming election. That reflects the fact that pill testing is a complex issue, and further consideration and consultation is required. Labor considers this motion calling on the federal government to take action is premature and not targeted to the appropriate level of government. As such, we will not be supporting this motion.
One Nation will not be supporting this motion. Safe drugs don't exist. The same pill can have different effects on different people. On the one hand, pill testing will give the user a sense of false security if deemed safe. On the other hand, it may even lead to on-selling of the drug if deemed unsafe. Even if a pill is tested and deemed to be safe, it can still have adverse effects on the user, depending on the circumstances of the day, their health and what else they've been taking during the day. Onsite pill testing may be fast and easy, but it's not particularly accurate. Proper analysis of a pill requires highly sophisticated laboratory equipment, and it can take days. It would be better to target the manufacturers, the distributors and the sellers of these drugs, instead of the end user. These are illicit drugs, and their use should never be encouraged.
The Justice Party will be supporting the Greens on this. Back in in 1972, President Nixon launched the war on drugs. He had Elvis Presley and Sammy Davis Jr in the White House. That was in 1972. It hasn't worked. The war on drugs has not worked. I've said here before: I'm sick of watching the six o'clock news and seeing big burly coppers with guns on their hips arresting pot plants. We have to try something different. This is a trial. It should be tried. I hope they bring it on in the state of Victoria if you guys don't.
The war on drugs is actually a war on people. The evidence around pill testing is very clear. It has been introduced in many jurisdictions right across the world. Where it has been introduced, it hasn't led to an increase in drug use but what it has done is save lives. If we don't want a mother or father, a brother or sister to get that call at three in the morning informing them that a loved one has died then we have to get real, and the reality is that people are using these substances.
It doesn't matter what anyone in this chamber says—people will continue to use these substances. It's incumbent on us to put in place measures that we know work. The government says it sends the wrong message. Well, a message given by a health professional that says, 'Take this drug and it may kill you,' is not the wrong message; it's the right message. Having an authority say to individuals, 'If you are going to take it, we are going to do it in a way that makes it as safe as possible,' is exactly the message we should be sending people. (Time expired)