Australia was poised to take a step in an unprecedented direction with the establishment of the country’s first pill testing initiative at a festival. The effort was set for its first deployment Canberra’s Spilt Milk music festival, though it has now been cancelled.
The trial was previously approved by The Labor Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government in September after the ACT engaged in talks with the Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE) consortium. The consortium had agreed to take on the responsibility for running and supervising the testing service.
And yet, despite the ACT and STA-SAFE’s prior negotiations, organizers of the Spilt Milk festival released a statement that noted that they had not received the documentation from STA-SAFE that would permit the trials to be run on federal land. In order for the trials to proceed, Spilt Milk producers would need an operational plan, a risk assessment, and insurance and legal framework information. With the proper documentation in their possession, festival orchestrators would then be able to submit the paperwork to the National Capital Authority (NCA), the body that would then need to issue a permit to allow the trials to run. Without this documentation, a permit could not be obtained, and the trials would halt before even getting a chance to get started.
STA-SAFE member, Dr. David Caldicott told ABC Radio that STA-SAFE had not fielded a request for such documentation, commenting that the group has “…provided every piece of documentation that has been requested.” Caldicott gestured towards political pressure, identifying such pressure as the likely culprit in the trials’ failure to advance. The ACT Liberal Party’s health spokeswoman, Vicki Dunne, was quoted in August stating “The Spilt Milk festival is at Commonwealth Park, which is on Commonwealth (federal) land. Pill testing will need Commonwealth Government approval and I doubt that they will give it.”
The ACT Liberal Party has since taken credit for thwarting the pill testing plans.