'Messed up': Mardi Gras strip searches slammed
A NSW Greens MP used a pre-election public health debate to slam the use of sniffer dogs and strip searches at Mardi Gras and officially announce the party's plan to legalise vapes.
Cate Faehrmann said witnessing people in line at Mardi Gras being taken away and strip-searched showed how "messed up" the government's priorities were towards meaningful public health reform.
"The government has refused to listen to the experts from the coronial inquest into deaths at music festivals ... and act upon the key recommendations that will reduce harm and save lives," she said on Monday.
"All this does is force young people to consume all their drugs at once."
The comments came at a forum hosted by the NSW Public Health Association of Australia, which featured Ms Faehrmann alongside outgoing health minster Brad Hazzard, opposition health spokesman Ryan Park and independent candidate for Lane Cove Victoria Davidson.
Ms Faehrmann revealed a plan by her party to legalise nicotine vapes for people over the age of 18 to help reduce harms associated with the devices.
Mr Hazzard, who is retiring from politics after the election, called vaping "abhorrent" and said there were no easy answers to reducing vaping in the community.
"A lot of people don't realise that they're effectively smoking the chemicals in antifreeze with about 500 different flavours," he said.
Ms Davidson said there was a pathway for legal access to e-cigarettes as a quit aid, but that there were other methods already approved by the TGA that should be prioritised.
All parties advocated preventive health measures to reduce strain on hospitals and other services.
"The demands on the health and hospital sector can't continue to go as they are," Mr Park said.
Ms Davidson pointed out Australia had been an international leader on public health campaigns including skin cancer prevention campaigns, tobacco control, cancer screening and safe driving measures, and should continue to be.
Advertising of junk food to young people in public places such as public transport was opposed in principle by all the candidates, but Mr Hazzard said regulation needed to be done at a national level.
"There's been a lot of discussions with the state and territory health ministers and we all agree that that should be on a national basis," he said.
Ms Faehrmann congratulated the coalition government on pushing for a cashless gaming card in NSW and called on Labor to commit to a similar strategy.
Mr Park said Labor had developed a range of initiatives from opposition included a 12-month trial of a cashless gaming card.
"I don't want to sit here and just smash pubs and clubs. But I recognise the harm that problem gambling is doing," he said.
"I think what we have done is a sensible first step in the road."
Mr Hazzard noted the clubs industry had a positive impact for many communities, and said there was a "balancing act" to be done in reducing pokies revenue.