Baird’s tough stance on festivals set to fail

As Mike Baird vows to get tough on festival organisers to stop drug overdoses at music festivals, one TBS reader outlines how he is set to fail.


I have known people to sneak drugs into music festivals. And none of them have ever been caught. The most pensive moments I’ve experienced were travelling to the festival. Nervous glances exchanged. Have I done enough? Is it hidden well enough? Will I slip through security? etc.

Until the moment of truth, this conversation rages with the possibilities of worst case scenarios. But that’s only as a precursor. The conversation ceases at the gate, as I’ve seen people keep their cool, hiding behind sunglasses, conspicuously avoiding drug dogs in an inconspicuous fashion. The threat is worse than the reality. Unless you’re stupid and obviously sprint in the opposite direction (as I’ve seen happen), you’re seemingly okay.

Which is the problem.

The onus is on not being caught. The health benefits and risks are not factored in. Instead, the talk is of a thousand wives’ tales to avoid detection. As it has been explained to me, you are responsible for you, and thusly, the unwritten rule of drugs comes into play. You sneak your own in, and you control your intake. There’s no-one else to blame – whatever the outcome.

Which brings us to Mike Baird’s plans to tighten the belt on festival-goers at the gate.

A misdirected ploy.

While the statistics may marginally shift, the police can’t possibly screen everyone at the full-cavity-level required to stamp out drugs at a music festival. What Baird doesn’t know, or has not seen, is the mass of people who pass through the gate in a rash of furious movement. Whatever stringent screening processes Baird forces upon organisers of these events will just embolden the ticket holders to continue in the same manner. It’s just another obstacle to overcome.

Police with dogs on the way to the festival, bag screening, police dogs beyond the gate. It’s not like the police are failing. Far from it; they’re just powerless in the face of such an uncontrollable force. The proliferation of drugs is an issue that is impossible to police at the gate. While these new measures may garner riotous headlines regarding drug busts, they won’t stop anyone from thinking twice. Those in question will just invent different ways to avoid detection, or continue to take their chances.

None of this changes the mindset – a big part of which, that drugs are crucial for the enjoyment of a music festival; no drugs = no fun. I’ve had people explain that it’s a cheaper alternative to the exorbitant prices they have to pay for drinks at the venue – a theory that I can absolutely attest to; $15 a drink is outrageous.

NSW Police Minster Troy Grant, when speaking to the ABC, said, and I quote, “ultimately, if the events continue to cause deaths, well the festivals will write their own scripts,” which is unfair to those who run the festivals – they hardly want to be responsible for the deaths of those inside and risk their business for an issue that is mostly out of their control.

Until the mindset of casual drug abuse (in which I’ve seen teenagers partaking) is changed, more obstacles at the gates of these festivals will only seek to smarten the next generation of drug users and festival-goers, to better conceal whatever drugs they’re bringing with them. If Baird’s solution is a bigger net, fine, but the bigger the net, the bigger the holes in which to slip through.


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