The NSW health minister has described Greens MP Cate Faehrmann’s admission she has taken MDMA as “reckless at best,” revealing that four of the five recent NSW festival deaths were linked directly to the substance.
Ms Faehrmann on Monday confessed to taking ecstasy or MDMA occasionally since her 20s and took aim at the state government’s stance on illicit drug use, saying its zero-tolerance approach was costing people their lives.
Ms Faehrmann, 48, said young people wanted politicians to “get real” about illegal drugs and to accept evidence that illegal drugs should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal one.
“The government’s zero-tolerance approach to drugs has not only been a catastrophic failure in stopping drug use, it is costing people their lives,” Ms Faehrmann wrote in an opinion piece published in The Sydney Morning Herald.
But Health Minister Brad Hazzard said her comments could be perceived as an endorsement of drug taking.
“She seemed to be saying that because she had taken it, it was OK for other people to take it; I think that is a really, really bad message for young people,” Mr Hazzard told AAP.
“Sadly some young people do take drugs but I think Ms Faehrmann’s op-ed piece in a major newspaper was at best reckless.”
Mr Hazzard also revealed that MDMA itself was linked directly to the death of four of the five people to have died at NSW festivals since September.
“I’ve had advice from NSW Health that four of the five young people who passed away died because of a direct link with MDMA being in their body,” Mr Hazzard said.
“The fifth young lady that passed away, the early clinical evidence is that it was also MDMA.”
Ms Faehrmann described Mr Hazzard’s criticism as “ridiculous nonsense,” and said young people were crying out for politicians to “pull their heads out of the sand and acknowledge reality”.
“Young people have stopped listening to this government because of responses like this which treat them like fools,” she told AAP in a statement.
Ms Faehrmann said policing and sniffer dogs weren’t stopping people from bringing drugs into festivals but led to people taking more than one MDMA pill or cap at once before entering the festival.
“They do this to avoid detection from sniffer dogs,” she said.
Australia’s two biggest states have pushed back pill testing at music festivals
“I could easily imagine I would have consumed all of my drugs at once before entering a venue if dogs had been around.”
Ms Berejiklian on Monday morning stood by her government’s zero-tolerance approach.
She told Nova radio pill testing could not guarantee the drug would not kill someone, even if it was pure MDMA.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied having ever taken illegal drugs when asked, while federal opposition leader Bill Shorten said he might have “done something” during his university years.