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Question Time: Will the government fund pill testing trials in Queensland?

On Wednesday 17 August 2022, I asked the Health Minister whether the government will fund trials of pill testing in Queensland with a view to expanding it at festivals and in the community.

You can read my question and the answer below, or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard)

Mr BERKMAN: My question this morning is to the Minister for Health. The Mental Health Commissioner indicated in estimates that progress is being made towards licensed drug checking or pill testing in Queensland and that the adoption of drug checking at festivals and in the community will save lives. Will the health department support and fund a pill testing trial with a view to expanding this at festivals and in the community as the ACT is now doing?

Mrs D’ATH: As the Mental Health Commissioner said in estimates, these issues are being worked through currently and the benefits and risks of doing this are being looked at. Benefits have certainly been identified in some areas. There are small trials going on in other places around the country. We have to work through these issues and what we do very carefully. We will give this proper consideration. It will be based on evidence. We will ensure that we look not just nationally but internationally to determine best practice in relation to this.

I am very proud of our investment in mental health in this year’s budget. That includes investment in drug and alcohol services. When I raised with the former Commonwealth government whether there was going to be specific funding for drug and alcohol services as part of our bilateral agreement on mental health, the answer was no. There was going to be no specific carve out for drug and alcohol services. We cannot talk about mental health without talking about investment in drug and alcohol services. We know they go hand in hand.

Those opposite like to talk crime and youth crime. All of these things are mixed together. Housing, mental health, drug and alcohol support, health, domestic violence, education, training and skills, job opportunities all go hand in hand. I am proud that as a government we recognise that and have done so from day one. It is not one agency that can solve these issues. It has to be multiagency and a whole-of-government strategy. It also involves working with the private sector, NGOs and all three levels of government. We know that many of our facilities, including drug and alcohol facilities, are run by private providers but that we provide capital funding or fund services.

It is an important area. I know that the member for Maiwar is not the only person who is passionate about this issue and understands the importance of getting this right. When looking at drug testing we have to consider whether it is in the best interests of individuals and festival-goers and lead to fewer deaths, fewer injuries and less drug use. These are all the things that we are working through at the moment. As I said, we will do it in a way that is thorough and evidence based so we can get the answer right when it comes to what we do going forward.

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