The future of pill testing in NSW

Art: Anh Noel

You may have heard the news— the Queensland government has just announced that they’ll be trialling government pill testing sites, like the ACT has been running since July 2022. Down here in New South Wales, political groups, activist groups, and plenty of healthcare providers have been fighting for the same kind of program but to no avail.

However, with the upcoming election, will NSW have a chance to perhaps see this program rolled out across our state? And so, what might the major political parties have to say on this issue leading up to the election? 

Liberals: Just Don’t Do Drugs?

Well, the Liberal stance seems to be the same as ever. In 2019, the NSW Liberal government commissioned an inquest into ice use across the state, resulting in a number of suggestions to reduce the harm of drug use in NSW. One of these suggestions was pill testing. The Berejiklian government at the time dismissed this suggestion, saying they didn’t want to be seen encouraging drug use. More recently, following the death of a 26-year-old Sydney man at a music festival in February this year, Perrottet was questioned as to his stance on pill testing. His answer? “My clear message to people right across NSW [is] stay safe, and don’t take drugs and you will be safe”. 

Labor’s stance: It’s Summit Time!

The Labor party on the other hand, seems to have somewhat of a more open mind… perhaps? Chris Minns has promised a ‘Drug Summit’ that, “will listen to the experts and take a whole-of-government approach to issues relating to drug use, abuse, supply, law enforcement, and treatment”. This proposal  is much reminiscent of the inquiry into ‘ice’ in 2019, and if the ice inquiry is anything to go by, it will most likely result in the suggestion of pill testing. 

In 1999, there was a drug summit held to address the increasing dangers of drug use, specifically in the Kings Cross area. The summit led to the implementation of ‘radical’ drug policies and programs, which includes accessible rehabilitation centres and a new injection facility at Kings Cross. Perhaps, Labor’s proposed ‘Dug Summit’ could also lead to effective pill testing reforms, the same way that the 1999 summit produced a fundamental change to drugs policy.

So, is pill testing likely to be seen in NSW? With a Labor government in power, perhaps we’ll be seeing it being trialled in the coming years. It may look different to the other systems, or it may not be implemented at all. There are also smaller parties that are pushing for it, the Greens have been long advocating for pill testing across Australia with the NSW Greens listing, “Making parties safer with pill testing services at fixed and mobile locations to test pills and other drugs” as a part of their suggested policies. 

Overall, it’s unlikely we’ll see pill testing in NSW in the coming years, though perhaps if Victoria changes its tune— the pressure will be on. 



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