Political backlash over Defqon.1 invite to Canberra
The Greens ACT leader Shane Rattenbury extended the invitation to promoters Q-Dance after NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian threatened to ban it from NSW after two patrons died of suspected overdoses and 700 of the 30,000-strong crowd needed medical attention,
Rattenbury said it would be an “economic opportunity” that could bring “life to the city”.
He suggested pill testing at Canberra music festivals could possibly avoid future drug-associated catastrophes.
The Canberra Times reported that ACT Opposition legal affairs spokesman Jeremy Hanson has urged ACT chief minister Andrew Barr and the rest of his cabinet to cancel the invite.
“Why on earth is an ACT government minister trying to promote an activity that recently cost two young people their lives and harmed 700 others,” Hanson said.
“This is an event where thousands of young people are known to take dangerous drugs, and where drug dealers have been caught peddling illegal drugs.
“The recent deaths of two young people and overdoses of others should not be taken lightly.
“The massive public safety risk that this event would bring is just not worth the economic benefits that minister Rattenbury promises.
“The biggest winners of this would be drug dealers. The safety of young people should not be traded for an economic outcome.
“Given minister Rattenbury didn’t run this past his cabinet colleagues, he appears to have gone rogue.
“I urge the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues to rule it out immediately.”
A spokesman for Barr told the Times that the government ruled out offering any financial incentives to move the event to Canberra.
“The government is fully supportive of pill testing as a harm minimisation public health measure, however, we won’t be using this public health policy as a tool to attract events to Canberra,” he said.
In any case, there was no ACT government land big enough to hold a festival the size of Defqon.1, he said.
In the meantime, federal home affairs minister Peter Dutton has again emphasised that he opposes pill testing at music festivals.
He told the National Press Club in Canberra it was tantamount to tolerating drug use.
He said, “Yes, child exploitation is a big priority of mine. But I’m going to have a lot more to say on our fight against drugs, the importation of drugs, the use, the socialising of drugs.”
“Drug abuse is part of a social issue.”