Late on Saturday night (17th June 2017), Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville announced broad, sweeping measures aimed at attacking the civil liberties of doofers across Victoria.

Details have been scant, as this announcement occurred through an exclusive with the Herald Sun’s police reporter, Wes Hosking.

Police to get new ‘stop and search’ powers to stamp out drugs at dance festivals – Herald Sun

Both Mr. Hosking and the Hon. Mrs. Neville were quick to defend the release on Twitter, pointing out that this is usual practice for politicians and media liaisons and that a press conference had occurred on Sunday.

WesTwitter

LisaTwitter

The announcement is touted as a ‘zero-tolerance’ crackdown on ‘drug-riddled’ dance festivals. Zero-tolerance approaches (also known as abstinence-only) have long failed at their objectives of keeping communities safer and of stopping drug use. No credible academic who understands this issue in all of Australia supports a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to drug use, which suggests that the use of such language is purely political, perhaps a rather lazy attempt to leverage the law-and-order debate in Victoria in favour of the Victorian Labor Party.

Apparently, Victoria Police and the Government are talking about changes to law including a removal of the necessity to have reasonable suspicion in order to search people in certain places. Reasonable suspicion is already a very malleable policy which police have overcome using sniffer dogs and profiling in order to have a legal reason to search someone. What they want now is to be able to search people even without those meager protections.

The Hon. Mrs. Neville also wants festivals to have stricter permitting requirements, apparently aimed at making promoters accountable for people’s actions relating to drugs in a festival. Considering Victorian Police can’t even keep drugs out of their own force… nor out of prisons, it seems pretty rich for the Minister to want promoters of culturally enriching events to be responsible for what’s in everyone’s pockets.

Of course, all we can do is speculate on a few media reports so far.

I have been told I will get a copy of the press conference. Just after finishing writing this article, I received an email from the Hon. Mrs. Lisa Neville MP’s office with the audio. I will have a listen as soon as possible and update.

  • The Victorian Premier Media Centre has nothing on it relating to this (the place where all media releases relating to the Premier and his cabinet are posted)
  • Lisa Neville’s website doesn’t have anything on it relating to this (and doesn’t seem to be updated often either).
  • The Victorian Police media page has nothing on it relating to this (though we probably wouldn’t expect anything to be here, considering the info came from a politician and not the police).
  • There are no Bills and no mention of any Bill that would address this on the Victorian Parliament website.

Have I forgotten anywhere?

This is the way this government wants to operate on drug issues. It wants the police and relevant ministers to be writing policy and drafting Bills without consultation, in secrecy, while all it releases to the community are exclusives with the Herald Sun. The Minister sees this as a completely acceptable way to do things and will no doubt introduce legislation on this issue without consulting with promoters, with the doof community, with experts in alcohol and other drug matters or those who work directly in harm reduction at festivals.

This is the same Minister who introduced a Bill (that will likely soon pass) BLANKET banning anything considered to be a ‘psychoactive substance’, despite a lack of evidence of efficacy and condemnations of similar legislation in the UK, Ireland and a glaring ineffectiveness of its use in New South Wales and Western Australia. And this Bill was introduced despite the fact that Australian Sex Party MP Fiona Patten‘s inquiry into Drug Law Reform is actually gathering evidence to inform the legislature on how to effectively move forward on these issues.

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Nick Wallis from Enpsychedelia speaking (MC) at the Rainbow Serpent Festival 2017 panel, with Dr. David Caldicott, Steph Tzanetis (DanceWize), Mala van Reemst (DanceWize/Unity – Netherlands), Dr. Monica Barratt, Richard Di Natale (Greens), Colleen Hartland (Greens), Nick Kent (President, SSDP Uni Melb)

WHAT CAN YOU DO???

Haha, here’s the thing. Not a lot so far! There’s barely anything to go on!

You can certainly call or write to Lisa Neville. If you do, be polite but firm and tell her why you think this is ridiculous. Also contact your local MP. Tell them you do not support such measures and would prefer to see a focus on stopping sniffer dogs and seeing harm reduction policies like pill testing implemented (like we’ve been calling for, for years now…)

We discussed the issue on our most recent episode of Enpsychedelia, where we also caught up with Adriana Buccianti, whose son passed away at Rainbow Serpent Festival in 2012, Colleen Hartland from the Victorian Greens and we also heard from a number of experts. We had hoped to also hear from Fiona Patten, but were unable to reach her in time. You can hear at the ‘latest episode’ link on the 3CR website.

We will keep you informed of everything that happens and hope to be making a blog somewhere (probably not here) to follow this. The Enpsychedelia Facebook page will keep you up to date.

Do NOT despair friends! Our community is strong, large and intelligent. It’s not just about the party for many of us… it is a community, it is something that is close to us and helps shape our identity. It is not something that will help anyone, it won’t reduce drug harms and it has the potential to devastate our community.

I’m just gonna leave this here…