Push to le­galise all drugs

Boss’s sor­row as ex-premier weighs in

The Courier-Mail - - FRONT PAGE - PATRICK BILLINGS DOMANII CAMERON

FOR­MER premier Camp­bell New­man has reignited calls for all drugs to be le­galised fol­low­ing the sixth death at a mu­sic fes­ti­val this sum­mer.

Mr New­man’s re­newed push fol­lows the death of Alex Ross-King, 19, of a sus­pected drug over­dose at the Syd­ney leg of the FOMO mu­sic fes­ti­val on Sat­ur­day. The fes­ti­val is run by ex-For­ti­tude Val­ley night­club owner Steve Pa­pas, who has of­fered “heart­felt and sin­cer­est con­do­lences” to her fam­ily and friends.

A BRIS­BANE mu­sic fes­ti­val direc­tor has of­fered “heart­felt con­do­lences” to the fam­ily of a teen who died at one of his events, as for­mer premier Camp­bell New­man dou­bled down on sug­ges­tions all drugs should be le­galised.

Alex Ross-King, 19, died after a sus­pected drug over­dose at the Syd­ney leg of the FOMO Fes­ti­val on Sat­ur­day.

It fol­lows the death of Bris­bane’s Josh Tam, 22, also at a sep­a­rate NSW mu­sic fes­ti­val less than a fort­night ago.

FOMO direc­tor and exFor­ti­tude Val­ley night­club owner Steve Pa­pas yes­ter­day ex­pressed his sym­pa­thies, while also de­fend­ing his fes­ti­val’s po­si­tion on drugs.

The state­ment on the FOMO Face­book page yes­ter­day came after he posted videos from a lux­ury ho­tel suite and back­stage videos from the fes­ti­val’s next leg in Mel­bourne on Sun­day, less than 24 hours after Ms RossKing’s death.

“We are deeply sad­dened by the death of one of our pa­trons,” the state­ment said.

“Our most heart­felt and sin­cer­est con­do­lences go out to her fam­ily and friends.

“Our anti-drug mes­sag­ing be­gan weeks ahead of the event and con­tin­ued at the event it­self – a mes­sage we’re proud to de­liver.”

Mr Pa­pas did not re­turn calls from The Courier-Mail.

In the wake of the deaths, Mr New­man said Aus­tralia needed to have a con­ver­sa­tion around le­gal­is­ing, reg­u­lat­ing and tax­ing drugs. He said that would be more ben­e­fi­cial than a pill-test­ing trial.

“We need to have a con­ver­sa­tion about de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion or le­gal­i­sa­tion,” Mr New­man said. “I really do be­lieve that we’re not get­ting any­where at the mo­ment.

“Imag­ine if we could di­vert the re­sources we’re spend­ing on en­force­ment to pub­lic health cam­paigns.”

The for­mer LNP leader said it was time Queens­land got re­al­is­tic about drugs.

“We will not stop peo­ple drink­ing, we will not stop peo­ple tak­ing drugs,” Mr New­man said.

Mr New­man ad­mit­ted that when he was premier, drug use was not an is­sue he wanted to talk about. He also con­ceded his calls for le­gal­i­sa­tion were un­likely to be pop­u­lar with ei­ther La­bor or the LNP, but he said it was a con­ver­sa­tion worth hav­ing.

When asked whether he thought le­gal­is­ing and con­trol­ling the pro­duc­tion of drugs would de­ter crim­i­nals from mak­ing them, Mr New­man said it would go a long way to­wards it.

“We’ve got very ex­pen­sive al­co­hol and the eco­nomics of it are young peo­ple are say­ing it’s cheaper to buy a few pills than to buy a bot­tle of vodka,” he said.

Mr New­man’s com­ments have been backed by crim­i­nol­o­gists, who have linked the surg­ing cost of booze at sum­mer fes­ti­vals to teens shift­ing to cheap and po­ten­tially deadly party drugs. With ec­stasy pills near­ing the cost of a beer, Univer­sity of New­cas­tle’s Dr Xan­thé Mal­lett said teenagers were turn­ing to drugs.

NSW au­thor­i­ties have vowed to toughen mon­thold reg­u­la­tions that in­clude as­sign­ing mu­sic fes­ti­vals a risk cat­e­gory – with “ex­treme” the high­est. Events deemed too dan­ger­ous will not be al­lowed to go ahead.

CON­DO­LENCES: Fes­ti­val direc­tor Steve Pa­pas and (in­set) his post on Sun­day; (left) Alex Ross-King, 19.

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