NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is standing firm on her opposition to pill testing, despite pleas from the family of a teenager who died of a suspected overdose after taking drugs at a music festival.
Alex Ross-King, 19, died after she was rushed from the FOMO festival at Parramatta Park to Westmead Hospital on Saturday night.
It was the fifth such death in NSW since mid-September.
“Premier please can we have this pill testing done,” her grandmother, Denise Doig, told Network Ten on Sunday.
“It’s such a small thing to do. It’s not hard (and) if it saves one life – one life is a life.”
Alex’s uncle, Phil Clark, implored of Ms Berejiklian: “Strong leadership isn’t always about sticking to an ideological decision or a position.”
But the Liberal leader is defiantly telling teens to simply say “No” to drugs.
She argues there’s no evidence that pill testing works and that for every expert who supports it, there is “another few” that don’t.
“We are concerned by the unintended consequences of pill testing,” she told Nine’s Today Show on Monday.
“Pill testing could unfortunately give people a false sense of security.”
The premier said young people needed to be better educated and told it’s OK to seek medical attention if something was wrong.
“The message to young people is do not take these tablets.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a difficult issue with varying opinions, but ultimately one for the states to deal with.
“I am sure Gladys is looking at every option that is reasonable and has a way of getting the balance right,” he told the program.
“We don’t want to create a permissive culture around drugs in this country – we have to remember these are illegal drugs.”
Doctors groups and medical academics are increasingly demanding trials in Australia while pointing to harm reduction in countries where testing is available such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain and France.
Noffs Foundation chief executive Matt Noffs says the premier must listen.
“‘Just say No’ is a miserable failure – it simply doesn’t work,” he said in a statement.
“I understand the premier is in a tough position but I need her to listen to me right now. We are the experts. We know the evidence. The evidence is clear – this will save lives.”
Pill testing allows people to anonymously submit samples for on-the-spot analysis to determine their composition.