Steve Price’s car crash interview
STEVE Price has been called "ignorant" and "arrogant" by outraged viewers of The Project after a strange interview with a drug expert about pill testing at festivals.
The showdown came as two "deadly" pills and drugs cut with paint, toothpaste and artificial sweetener were found during Australia's first legal pill-testing trial at Groovin The Moo festival in Canberra over the weekend.
Matt Noffs, a drugs expert with treatment service Harm Reduction Australia, fielded questions from Waleed Aly and Carrie Bickmore before the brutal confrontation with Price.
"We're all blindfolded. We know how many young people are out there using drugs like ecstasy, but what are we doing about it?" began Noffs.
"In ACT, you've got police who are enlightened and want to try a new approach so they were really happy about this as well."
But Price wasn't buying any of it.
"I'd hardly call police ignoring drug use enlightened but if that's what you want to stick with, that's fine."
Noffs responds by saying everyone in Price's generation was "smoking dope" and "now it's ecstasy".
"That's just a reality, we don't want to be locking these kids up because a lot of them have tertiary degrees, they're smart," he continued.
Price countered: "We have laws. Drugs are illegal. We can't just have the police going around ignoring the law."
But, the debate really fired up when Price wanted to know how many festival goers decided not to take their "clean" drugs after the test.
Noffs said the numbers have not yet been crunched and then took aim at Price's "clean" drug remark.
"It's a very confusing question for people who don't understand the science behind this," he said. "The chemists take this away and analyse this. Are you a chemist?"
"And sorry Steve, I don't know how many 'clean' illicit drugs you're taking, but I've never found a clean illicit drug on the black market."
"That's ridiculous, you know I'm not taking any drugs," Price replied.
"You do take drugs, Steve," said Noffs. You might enjoy a beer, but that's sold over the counter and you've got some sort of quality control around it."
Noffs said parents can't stop their children taking drugs - adding "it hasn't worked for a hundred bloody years".
"It's worked with my children," said Price. "They don't take drugs."
Price is then asked if he has ever taken drugs, to which he says "no". But, Noffs calls him a "liar".
Price says the pair will never agree as the interview ends and viewers tweeted The Project - some saying his comments about parenting were "arrogant" and "ignorant".
The weekend's trial is being hailed as a success by many. It was a collaboration between Safety and Testing and Advisory Service at Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE), the ACT government and ACT Police.
Oh well if Steve Price's kids don't take drugs then no one does! Pack up and go home guys, no need to save lives today. #TheProjectTV— Loz (@LozM77) 30 April 2018
@theprojecttv I am the mother of two young adults and I could not be more disgusted with Steve Price’s arrogant, know it all, opinion on the testing of illicit drugs. Never tried drugs yet he’s an advocate for not allowing the testing - ignorant, out-dated opinion! Get him off!!!— Mich (@Michg66) 30 April 2018
It is being hailed as a massive success by the parties involved. Emergency doctor in the tent Dr David Caldicott even said the testing likely saved lives.
"We didn't know where it was. There was no sign posting where it was … so we just took the drugs," one Groovin the Moo attendee, who wasn't named, told the station.
"If there was something in it that I didn't think would be there, I'd think twice, definitely."
Thousands of people attended the festival at the University of Canberra campus and 128 of those, ranging in age from 17 to over 40, submitted their drugs for testing at a medical tent outside the festival entrance.
Pill testing works by taking a sample scrape off a pill or a small number of granules out of a plastic capsule. That sample is then analysed by a doctor and a chemist to determine what it really contains and the results are handed back to the festival attendee.
They are then able to make a choice about whether they still want to consume the drugs or instead dispose of them in an "amnesty bin".
STA-SAFE's Dr Caldicott said five people used the amnesty bin and between 10 and 20 per cent of others who had their drugs tested said they were also considering throwing out their pills.
STA-SAFE member Matt Noffs from Harm Reduction Australia said the test results revealed alarming details about what was really in some ecstasy pills.
"We saw 128 people come through with 85 substances and it exceeded our expectations," Mr Noffs told news.com.au.
"People were surprised with the kind of stuff that we found in the drugs. We had everything from paint to toothpaste. We also found Nutrisweet, which is an artificial sweetener, arnica muscle rub and milk powder," Mr Noffs said.
A "significant number" also contained pure MDMA or ecstasy, which Mr Noffs said could still be very harmful.
"Some people think 'This is pure ecstasy, this is OK', but that's not the case," he said.
Two of the pills were considered "deadly", Mr Noffs said.
"A doctor and two chemists analyse the pills and the doctor can see what drugs are in them. They said 'This stuff is deadly. This stuff has been found to kill people'. I know one of the ingredients we found is quite rare here but it's normally found in Europe."
ACT Police detective acting superintendent Rohan Smith said police did not enter the pill-testing tent at any point during the festival.
"In relation to the tent itself, we had nothing to do with that. It's a [Health Directorate] issue. We just established normal policing protocols at the event," he told Canberra radio station 2CC.
"No police entered that tent at any point in time."
Police had previously said they would "not actively target" the section of the festival where pill testing took place.
"While ACT Policing does not condone the use of illicit drugs, we do support harm minimisation strategies such as the decision to provide an accommodating environment to allow for pill testing," a police spokesman said.
- with Rebecca Sullivan