Victoria eyes off new permit system for festivals

The Rainbow Serpent Festival in central Victoria saw multiple drug related offences this year.

The police and the state government in Victoria are following the lead of New South Wales and are looking at a new permit system for music festivals following multiple drug overdoses at music festivals hitting the headlines recently.

Resisting a push for pill testing, the Premier and Chief Commissioner are looking to put the onus on festival organisers to ensure they are “as safe as possible”.

Speaking on 3AW, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said he was “dead against” pill testing, arguing instead for a total change in the culture of festivals.

“I think it’s a bit of a distraction when we talk about pill testing on this stuff,” he said. “Every year when these events come around people immediately start the conversation about pill testing but it seems to me we have a broader structural issue around these festivals themselves.”

He said the police had been discussing a “permit regime” for festivals with Police Minister Lisa Neville.

“We’ve been having some good conversations with government … around trying to look towards a permit regime where police can be involved, with the ambos and other emergency services, and planning around fire as well in relation to safety permits for these events,” he said.

“I think it is something we need to look at seriously, it’s the culture around these events.

“If we head straight to things like pill testing that just perpetuates that culture of an unsafe environment for young people trying to enjoy themselves.”

The new proposed scheme would see a festival which had a troubled history unable to get a permit.

“I think so. I think the organisers of various concerts … there used to be culture around how to make this event about the music and not about trying to create a Woodstock-like atmosphere in 2019,” he said.

“Minister Neville has been strong on this in conversations we’ve had with her on this, I think she’s very supportive of an approach where we are able to make sure these concerts are as safe as possible. I’m pretty hopeful, she’s been certainly … not backward in supporting those conversations, I’m hopeful we’ll get something there.”