Gladys Berejiklian Doubles Down On Pill Testing Opposition Following Another Festival Death

"Let's not pretend that pill testing would have saved these lives."

Gladys Berejiklian pill testing photo

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has remained firm in her opposition to pill testing, just days after the death of a young man at Strawberry Fields festival in rural New South Wales.

Glen Mcrae, a 24-year-old man from Melbourne, died of cardiac arrest on Sunday morning after reportedly ingesting cocaine, MDMA, and GHB.

“We would like to send our sincere condolences to his family and friends during this distressing and terribly sad time,” festival organisers wrote in a statement on Sunday. “We have implemented every single harm minimisation strategy that is legally available to us, run in-depth education campaigns on the dangers of drug use, and worked closely with all stakeholders to ensure we are in the best possible position to prevent and manage an incident like this.”

The premier has been under immense pressure to allow pill testing after a coroner’s report released in early November strongly urged the government to implement the practice. But during a press conference on Monday, Berejiklian reiterated her opposition to pill testing, saying that it would not save lives.

“What might be OK for one person taking a tablet could be lethal for another person. Let’s not pretend that pill testing would have saved these lives,” she told reporters, as per The Sydney Morning Herald. “Pill testing will not solve the problem that ecstasy kills. I cannot say that in stronger words.”

She went on to say that she believed pill testing would “cause more deaths”, by giving people “a false sense of security.”

A journalist then reportedly accused the premier of not showing leadership on the issue, to which she responded: “What questions would you be asking me if we allowed pill testing, and over summer 10 people died after someone told them there was no impurities in their pill?”

“We’d be having a very different conversation,” she continued. “And for every person whose life might be saved by pill testing, if that were the case, there could be 10 others that succumb because they’re given a false sense of security.”

She said the government has been discussing options such as having amnesty bins outside festivals. “We’re looking forward to a whole suite of opportunities to support young people making the right decisions and it’s been an ongoing process,” she said.

Earlier this year, a pill testing trial held at Groovin The Moo in Canberra was deemed an “overwhelming success”, with 171 individual samples tested. Of those, seven samples tested positive for the potentially deadly substance n-ethylpentylone, and were discarded in the study’s amnesty bin.