Stop sniffer dogs at music festivals.

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That the use of sniffer dogs for drug detection at music festivals, by the NSW police department, be ceased forthwith. That funds allocated to sniffer dog operations be used instead for strategies of drug harm minimisation with research based evidence of effectiveness (eg drug testing tents & education campaigns).


There's something very wrong in the state of New South Wales. The Police Force appear to be wielding social control with a "not fit for purpose" testing regime, and locking people out of music venues for 6 months at a time.

 Among many concerns, this action is directly affecting current and future earnings by Australian local & independent musicians and allied creatives. It is also potentially illegal (this is being tested in Court - no firm timeline to final decision being handed down).

It's outrageous that the State feels that it is within its power to destroy the Music Ecology of NSW. Serious harm has already been metered out by the introduction of the Lockout Laws - which have diminished Sydney's reputation as a 24/7 international, cosmopolitan capital city. This is totally unacceptable! It creates major problems for the state's economy - something the current government claims to support & wishes to stimulate. Already the Inquiry into the music ecology of NSW has thrown up a few sad statistics on the funding of the Arts and music, and the support for music in NSW.

Last weekend at Above & Beyond's show in Sydney (at Olympic Park), some concert goers were given a six-month ban from the venue, following a drug search, despite NSW Police finding nothing on them. Locking prospective festival goers out of a large, city precinct, that accommodates many more activities and cultural experiences, including those of sporting and artistic nature, for six full months because a sniffer dog sat beside them (allegedly proving that person has drugs on their person), even though no drugs were found, is a disgrace and is a misuse of power.

There are also serious concerns about people panicking on sight of a sniffer dog, and potentially lethal overdoses resulting. The current enforcing does nothing for harm minimisation but may directly cause exactly the opposite.

 The cost of employing sniffer dogs is a waste of funds. Use of sniffer dogs is a method that has only a 25% success rate, taking resources away from other programs that could be implemented to help educate and increase safety. A sniffer dog costs over $12k to work for a day at a music festival. A minimum of 2 are required for a police operation. A cost of $24/$25k is a substantial sum, and most likely a profligate use of taxpayer funds as there is no proof that it is effective in any way (in fact the reverse more likely).

Utilising studied and trialled methods for harm minimisation, such as suggested through current trends in rehabilitation best practice benchmarks, in various areas of rehabilitation, psychological research, and medical research, could provide pro-active, beneficial actions and outcomes; through educative, rehabilitative, and safety oriented aspects. Drug testing tents at festivals is one such option. Drugs testing tents have been recently trialled in the ACT.

NSW Police must cease the use of sniffer dogs at venues and music festivals, and instead allow experts in rehabilitation and harm minimisation to lead the way with progressive and realistic measures for safety and education.


This petition has been co-authored by Liz Gibbs and Julie Storer.
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