New South Wales Labor MP Jo Haylen has called for an end to police sniffer dogs at music festivals.
Speaking at her party’s annual state conference last Friday, the Sydney MP argued that use of sniffer dogs at festivals are causing more overdoses and deaths than they are preventing.
Addressing 650 delegates gathered at Sydney’s Town Hall, Haylen launched a scathing attack on the contentious drug screening practices of NSW police. “Sniffer dogs are ineffective,” she said. “They’re wrong three quarters of the time, causing unnecessary interactions between police and young people… They scare young people into ingesting all of their drugs at once, and cause unnecessary overdoses.”
Echoing growing sentiment among Australian festival goers, Haylen instead advocated practices like amnesty bins and pill testing. “Let’s make good evidence based public policy and once again make NSW a world leader when it comes to harm minimisation.”
Not pulling any punches, the Marrickville resident also criticised NSW police for targeting individuals profiled as being young or belonging to the gay and lesbian community.
The MP also derided the merits of roadside drug testing, noting that it “hurls people into the legal system for having the most minute traces of drugs in their system, but operates without a shred of evidence to prove it reduces the number of accidents.”
It looks like Haylen is still in the minority on the controversial issue. Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord said Haylen’s position does not represent official ALP policy.
Drug related deaths at music festivals was a heated topic in 2015, and with a spate of drug-related controversies kicking off the new year, it doesn’t look like debate will be dying down any time soon.
While a shift away from the government’s zero-tolerance policy remains speculative, it seems like Haylen’s bold position might mark a move towards a more balanced discussion.