Dan McNamee from Art Vs Science has written to the Member for Ballina, Don Page, arguing strongly and eloquently for a trial of a sniffer dog-free Splendour in the Grass.
The Honourable Don Page
Member for Ballina
Dear Mr Page,
My name is Daniel McNamee and I play in the music group “Art vs Science”. We’ve been lucky enough to play at Splendour in the Grass 4 times since 2008, and are playing again this year.
I’m sure you have witnessed the increase in illicit drug use in young people - I’m 30 and even in my lifetime I’ve seen the use of “ecstasy” (MDMA) in particular increase from a fringe activity practiced by underground party-goers to something widespread and done by accountants, lawyers, doctors, university students - people of all walks of life.
I think we can both agree that it is a dangerous activity, made all the more so by the manner in which it is produced, procured, and ingested. I have seen this first hand. People being led out of the festival to ambulances, eyes rolling in their heads. Concerned and panicking friends following and being told to try to relax. It’s a horrid sight. This tragedy is all the more tragic because these people are often inexperienced drug users who might wait all year to go to one or two music festivals and ingest these substances there.
I believe the you have the unique opportunity with the upcoming festival to help pass a bill which will trial measures that will, I’m certain, reduce dangerous drug taking practices which lead to these horrible situations.
I urge you to consider a trial whereby the common practice of police officers using drug detection dogs is suspended at this year’s festival, and to compare the amount of hospitalisations that occur.
Please let evidence inform this policy. Automatically you will cut out the number of hospitalisations due to people panicking upon sight of the dogs and ingesting their whole weekend’s supply of drugs. This actually led to the deaths of a young woman at the Perth Big Day Out 2009 and a young man at a festival called Defqon 1 in Sydney’s West last year.
A police presence which focusses on stopping truly anti social behaviour - violence and aggression is all that is needed. People who are allowed to ingest drugs without the fear of a lifetime criminal record will have a new fear: the drug itself. Drug taking is dangerous. The correct dosage, setting, and friend support is vital. Let this be the only thing that people are worried about.
There is a common sentiment in NSW public life that allowing drug taking at festivals would be “an admission of defeat”. It does not have to be this way. We need only look at the data, and take advice from good sources like the 2006 NSW Ombudsman’s Report (attached) and the Australia21 reports on the issue (also attached, should you wish to research the matter further). I personally think it would be wonderful if we enjoyed music and socialised without drugs - alcohol included - but we cannot change people’s minds about drugs through fear alone. The record shows. It doesn’t work. But it does make the setting so much more dangerous for our children.