Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

Newman’s radical call to stop drug deaths

A BRISBANE music festival director has offered "heartfelt condolences" to the family of a teen who died at one of his events, as former premier Campbell Newman doubled down on suggestions all drugs should be legalised.

Alex Ross-King, 19, died after a suspected drug overdose at the Sydney leg of the FOMO Festival on Saturday.

It follows the death of Brisbane's Josh Tam, 22, also at a separate NSW music festival less than a fortnight ago.

Alex Ross-King, 19, died of a suspected drug overdose at the FOMO music festival in Parramatta. Picture: Facebook
Alex Ross-King, 19, died of a suspected drug overdose at the FOMO music festival in Parramatta. Picture: Facebook

 

Joshua Tam, 22, died of a suspected drug overdose at the Lost Paradise festival in New South Wales. Picture: Supplied
Joshua Tam, 22, died of a suspected drug overdose at the Lost Paradise festival in New South Wales. Picture: Supplied

FOMO director and ex-Fortitude Valley nightclub owner Steve Papas expressed his sympathies on Monday, while also defending his festival's position on drugs.

The statement on the FOMO Facebook page yesterday came after he posted videos from a luxury hotel suite and backstage videos from the festival's next leg in Melbourne on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Ms Ross-King's death.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of one of our patrons," the statement said.

"Our most heartfelt and sincerest condolences go out to her family and friends.

"Our anti-drug messaging began weeks ahead of the event and continued at the event itself - a message we're proud to deliver."

Mr Papas did not return calls from The Courier-Mail.

FOMO director Steven Papas. Picture: Liam Kidston
FOMO director Steven Papas. Picture: Liam Kidston

In the wake of the deaths, Mr Newman said Australia needed to have a conversation around legalising, regulating and taxing drugs.

He said that would be more beneficial than a pill-testing trial.

"We need to have a conversation about decriminalisation or legalisation," Mr Newman said. "I really do believe that we're not getting anywhere at the moment.

"Imagine if we could divert the resources we're spending on enforcement to public health campaigns."

The former LNP leader said it was time Queensland got realistic about drugs.

"We will not stop people drinking, we will not stop people taking drugs," Mr Newman said.

Mr Newman admitted that when he was premier, drug use was not an issue he wanted to talk about.

He also conceded his calls for legalisation were unlikely to be popular with either Labor or the LNP, but he said it was a conversation worth having.

Former premier Campbell Newman believes the money spent on law enforcement would be better spent on education programs. Picture: Kym Smith
Former premier Campbell Newman believes the money spent on law enforcement would be better spent on education programs. Picture: Kym Smith

When asked whether he thought legalising and controlling the production of drugs would deter criminals from making them, Mr Newman said it would go a long way towards it.

"We've got very expensive alcohol and the economics of it are young people are saying it's cheaper to buy a few pills than to buy a bottle of vodka," he said.

Mr Newman's comments have been backed by criminologists, who have linked the surging cost of booze at summer festivals to teens shifting to cheap and potentially deadly party drugs.

With ecstasy pills nearing the cost of a beer, University of Newcastle's Dr Xanthé Mallett said teenagers were turning to drugs.

NSW authorities have vowed to toughen month-old regulations that include assigning music festivals a risk category - with "extreme" the highest.

Events deemed too dangerous will not be allowed to go ahead.



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