It’s a new year and, just maybe, a new dawn for advocates of pill testing at music festivals after NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian appeared to have a change of heart on the issue.

The state Liberal leader is stanchly opposed to drug checking and, in the light of two deaths at the Defqon.1 festival last September, she toughened her already-hardline position.

That was then. When a young punter died on the New Year’s Eve weekend after ingesting an “unknown substance” at Lost Paradise festival, Berejiklian gave an unexpected response.

“If there was a way in which we could ensure that lives were saved through pill testing we would consider it – but there is no evidence provided to the government on that,” Berejiklian said, while reiterating that pill testing gave drug users “a false sense of security.”

pill testing
Pill testing

The news media jumped on her comments as evidence that Berejiklian’s mind was now open to the argument that enabling party-goers to test their tablets before dropping could reduce the harm and, possibly, save lives.

She’s not the only one. NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley said that pill testing “should not be off the table” and former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer has urged state politicians to have a rethink.

The debate on pill testing ignited once more when a 20 year-old man died in hospital after attending the Beyond The Valley festival at Lardner, about 100 kilometres east of Melbourne, on Saturday and a 22-year-old man passed away after visiting Lost Paradise fest on the same day at Glenworth Valley, near Gosford, about 70 km north of Sydney.

The Victorian government, however, says there are no plans to green-light pill testing in the state.

“Advice from Victoria Police tells us it can give people a false and potentially fatal sense of security about illicit drugs,” a Victorian government spokesman said.

The first pill testing trial took place last April at the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra, where two potentially deadly samples were discovered and half the drugs tested were found to contain no psychoactive substances.

Based on those findings, independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich gave notice of a motion to discuss the trial in the Legislative Assembly back in May.

After the Defqon double-tragedy, Berejiklian established a “high level expert panel” to provide advice and report on how to make music festivals safer, while officials from Liquor & Gaming NSW announced a new festivals license regime will begin operating from early 2019 to try ensure other lives aren’t lost.