Rainbow Serpent responds to increased police controls

Organisers of electronic musical festival Rainbow Serpent near Beaufort have argued plans to widen police search powers will risk the safety of young festival-goers.

It comes as Police Minister Lisa Neville confirmed she was looking at legislative reforms to give police new powers to search for drugs and block illicit substances getting into music events.

"There has been very serious harm caused by drugs at music festivals,” she said.

"This is about protecting lives and ensuring music festivals are great places for young people to get together.”

Ms Neville also rejected the concept of pill testing, arguing there was no way to accurately test for what is contained in particular drugs.

Supporters of pill-testing kits, which are widely used in Europe, say they allow people to identify the chemical make-up of drugs before taking them.

Rainbow Serpent director Tim Harvey said authorities should be focusing on harm reduction methods such as introducing pill testing instead of widening police powers.

"No expert I’ve spoken to in harm reduction believes these new police powers will lead to better outcomes for festival attendees, all evidence suggests it will cause greater harm," he said. 

"In my opinion, Police Minister’s Lisa Neville’s comments are inaccurate or at worst willfully ignorant. 

“I believe this new policy is a deplorable attempt by the Andrews government to woo the conservative vote in the lead up to the next election by appearing tough on crime and will further risk the lives and futures of young Australians."

There are no plans to introduce amended legislation to allow for pill-testing at events in Victoria. 

Rainbow Serpent attracted controversy after a 22-year-old man died at the festival from an accidental poisoning in January. 

This prompted Ballarat police, including Superintendent Andrew Allen, to condemn the event.

"Every year more and more police resources are required at this extraordinarily high-risk event," he said.

"Something must change."

Adriana Buccianti, whose son died at Rainbow Serpent in 2012, initially called for the event to be shut down.

But she has since campaigned for reform to allow drugs to be tested in the hope more deaths are avoided.

''You can't stop drugs, you can't stop alcohol, but if I can reach 10,000 people with a positive message, that would make more of an impact than to close the event,” she said.