Berejiklian softens stance on pill testing

Tom Rabe
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian appears to have softened her stance on pill testing

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she'd consider implementing pill testing in NSW if her government was shown evidence it saved lives.

The Liberal leader - who's been vehemently opposed to pill testing - appeared to soften her stance on Wednesday when asked about another death at an Australian music festival.

"If there was a way in which we could ensure that lives were saved through pill testing we would consider it - but there is no evidence provided to the government on that," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

The premier convened an expert panel into festival safety in September 2018 after two people died at the Defqon.1 event in western Sydney.

The panel was banned from examining pill testing but the premier on Wednesday claimed the government gave experts "free rein" when considering how to reduce harm.

"We don't stop anybody looking at all the options and we always say to them 'You have free rein to give the government advice on the best way forward'," Ms Berejiklian said.

The government is implementing all the expert panel's recommendations including introducing harsher penalties for festival drug dealers.

Ms Berejiklian on Wednesday insisted pill testing gave drug users "a false sense of security".

"I hear what some people are saying but as a premier, as the leader of NSW, my job is to keep the community safe," she said.

Pill testing allows people to anonymously submit samples for on-the-spot forensic analysis to determine their composition.

A trial at a major Australian music festival in 2016 found two in three people wouldn't consume a pill if a test showed it contained methamphetamine.

Police on Tuesday arrested 194 revellers at Sydney's Field Day in The Domain for drug offences. Six of those were for supplying drugs.

Two men - aged 19 and 21 - and an 18-year-old woman were allegedly found with 120 MDMA capsules between them. They were granted conditional bail to appear in court at later dates.

NSW Police on Wednesday said five people were taken to hospital from the festival - four for drug-related health issues.

It follows the death of another person from a suspected drug overdose at a music festival in Victoria.

A 20-year-old man died in hospital on Tuesday four days after the Beyond The Valley event in Lardner, east of Melbourne.

It was the fifth death of a festivalgoer in Australia in about five months.

NSW Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Bell, who oversaw the Field Day police operation, wouldn't comment on how people snuck drugs into the festival because he didn't want to "encourage" others to try the same methods.

"Ultimately young people have to be mindful that taking drugs isn't safe and illegal substances can be harmful to your health," he said.

"The question of pill testing is for the government."

Outspoken Anglican priest Rod Bower tweeted a photograph on Wednesday morning of the billboard outside his Gosford church which reads "Just test the damn pills".