An unwell young woman outside the Rolling Loud Festival. Picture: Damian Shaw
An unwell young woman outside the Rolling Loud Festival. Picture: Damian Shaw

We can learn from Singapore’s drug policy

GOING to school in Singapore, I had to pee in a cup.

It was all part of our school's zero-tolerance approach to drugs that students would have to consent to being randomly tested for illicit substances.

It may sound extreme, but consider the alternative: potentially getting caught in the wider community with drugs and punished under Singapore's merciless penal system, a system that includes capital punishment.

The contrast between how seriously drugs are taken on that tiny island nation, only an eight-hour flight away, and here in Australia could not be more stark.

 

A girl is held in the recovery position by a police officer outside the Rolling Loud Festival on Sunday. Picture: Damian Shaw
A girl is held in the recovery position by a police officer outside the Rolling Loud Festival on Sunday. Picture: Damian Shaw

 

True, there have been some non-government schools here that have flirted with drug testing.

Melbourne Grammar introduced screening for students suspected of drug use in the late 1990s, while The Southport School on the Gold Coast brought in its random drug testing policy in 2012 to curb weekend drug use.

The latter's Student Representative Council voted unanimously in favour of the policy.

"We want to provide boys with a strong reason to say 'No' so that they are better able to immediately refuse to get involved with drug experimentation," the council's motion read.

But generally speaking, Australian society is grotesquely more permissive when it comes to drug use.

A girl is helped by security staff to paramedics outside the Rolling Loud Festival at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Sunday. Picture: Damian Shaw
A girl is helped by security staff to paramedics outside the Rolling Loud Festival at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Sunday. Picture: Damian Shaw

Take the outrageous push by interest groups lobbying for pills to be tested at music festivals, giving vulnerable kids conflicting messages about drugs and the utterly wrong impression that there is a "safe" way to take them.

One of the several reasons why pill testing won't stop deaths is that even pure MDMA can kill, as 15-year-old Anna Wood discovered when she died of acute water intoxication in 1995.

Anna's father Tony Wood recently exposed how coldly calculating these "harm minimisation" advocates can be when he revealed he'd been approached just the day after her funeral in an effort to co-opt the grieving dad into their sick push.

He refused.

 

Paramedics work on a reveller at the Hardcore Till I Die festival at Homebush on Saturday.
Paramedics work on a reveller at the Hardcore Till I Die festival at Homebush on Saturday.

 

At the country's first legal pill testing trial at the Groovin The Moo festival in Canberra last year, just 128 out of the thousands attending the festival submitted their drugs for testing and only five threw out their drugs using the amnesty bin.

Yet pill testing proponents took this as a win.

Or take the parliamentarian boasting about her MDMA use, as NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann did when she merrily wrote that she had continued to take the deadly drug into her forties.

There was no thought given to the criminal enterprise she was supporting by taking poison peddled by organised gangs and sophisticated syndicates.

This poison has already claimed five young lives in NSW this summer alone and there's no end in sight.

A girl is treated by paramedics inside the festival. Picture: Damian Shaw
A girl is treated by paramedics inside the festival. Picture: Damian Shaw

Over the Australia Day weekend, 18 festival-goers were rushed to hospital with suspected reactions to drugs, a handful in a critical condition.

Twenty-four people were charged with drug-related offences, including a 17-year-old boy allegedly found with 579 capsules at the Hardcore Til I Die festival, its very name thumbing its nose at authorities.

Yet while drug dealers managed to slip into the festival, a journalist from the Daily Telegraph was banned - Derrick Krusche was told management had the right to refuse him entry, after he reported on another event run by the same organisers.

Drugs? Sure. Transparency, no way.

Or take the fact some magistrates are refusing to impose prison terms on drug dealers, as in the case of 18-year-old Tina Truc Phan, who smuggled 394 ecstasy pills into the Knockout Games of Destiny Festival in Homebush in December - the same festival attended by 19-year-old Callum Brosnan, who died from a suspected drug overdose.

Phan was only given an 80-hour community service order.

A young girl is helped by paramedics as another reveller (left) is stretchered away. Picture: Damian Shaw
A young girl is helped by paramedics as another reveller (left) is stretchered away. Picture: Damian Shaw

These days, festival dealers are more likely to be handed suspended sentences, community service orders, bonds and intensive corrective orders rather than full-time custodial sentences, thanks in part to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal overturning a three-decade-old legal principle in November 2017.

Mercifully, one Central Coast magistrate, Alex Mijovich, has been less forgiving, recording convictions for a handful of young people facing court for trying to smuggle in drugs to the Lost Paradise music festival, despite it being their first offence.

A girl takes a selfie as she is taken away on a stretcher outside the Rolling Loud Festival. Picture: Damian Shaw
A girl takes a selfie as she is taken away on a stretcher outside the Rolling Loud Festival. Picture: Damian Shaw

"We're asked not to give a conviction for young people (on a first offence)… but we have people dying," Magistrate Mijovich said to one 19-year-old who'd been caught with 12 MDMA capsules taped to a tampon inside her.

In a bold move, the Daily Telegraph chose to name and shame convicted users, but again, what's the alternative?

A potential future lying on a cold, hard slab in the morgue.

As the editor of The Daily Telegraph told readers last week, "If by publishing those faces we save one life, we would judge that outweighs the negative consequences of our decision."

Drastic measures - not softly-softly harm minimisation - are needed now to tackle the drug scourge killing our young people.

Otherwise, we can always ask the kids to piss in a cup.

Caroline Marcus is the host of Saturday Edition and Sunday Edition on Sky News.

@carolinemarcus



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