First Australian pill testing trial shelved for Canberra's Spilt Milk festival

Meegan Fitzharris responds to questions from the media regarding the decision to replacing cladding on the Canberra Hospital.
Meegan Fitzharris responds to questions from the media regarding the decision to replacing cladding on the Canberra Hospital.

A planned pill testing trial at Canberra's Spilt Milk musical festival has been shelved after an apparent dispute over required authorisations.

Set to become Australia's first trial of pill testing on November 25, the plan received ACT government approval last month and was expected to go ahead at the Commonwealth Park event.

It was to be conducted and funded by the Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events consortium.

Spilt Milk organisers Kicks Entertainment told ABC Radio on Thursday the consortium had not provided required documentation for the trial to go ahead.

"It comes down to STA-SAFE," director Ryan Phillips said.

"They need more time to provide documentation, insurance, legal framework to operate on federal land."

A similar pill testing proposal for the Groovin The Moo festival was denied in early 2017, but ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said free testing would be available next month "to keep people safe".

The plan had received support from ACT Policing and would not have been in breach of any territory law.

Police had agreed not enter the pill testing station unless they were requested to do so by festival organisers, security staff or emergency services.

Close monitoring of the trail was expected, with the consortium set to report on the number of people who used the service, how many drugs were discarded after testing and the chemical content of each sample.

The consortium was reportedly not aware of any problem on Thursday after provided required documents to Spilt Milk organisers.

Acting Health Minister Shane Rattenbury said he was aware of speculation the pill testing trial wouldn't go ahead.

"The ACT government has approved pill testing and believes that's it's a valuable harm minimisation measure," he told ABC radio.

"We've got a consortium called STA-SAFE, made up of a medical team, with all the right skills, who are willing to undertake it.

"We put the arrangements in place with various such government authorities such as as ACT Policing."

The Liberal opposition opposed the plan.

In September, the ACT Greens tabled a 1000-signature petition in the Legislative Assembly calling on the government to allow pill testing to go ahead.

This story First Australian pill testing trial shelved for Canberra's Spilt Milk festival first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.