Canberra's biggest music festival, Groovin the Moo, will not provide a testing service for illicit drugs anymore after insurers backed out only a few days before the event.
Groovin the Moo is the first event in Australia that provides free pill testing, supported by the event organisers and the ACT government, for festival-goers to check whether their drugs contain dangerous substances without getting in trouble with the law.
However, Pill Testing Australia, which provides the service, announced that it could not take out public liability insurance for the music festival held on Sunday because several private insurance brokers had allegedly demanded more information and imposed an impossible deadline.
“They've declined at the last minute to proceed with insuring us and requiring a heap of other information that was possible to provide them with at such short notice, effectively terminating our service,” said Pill Testing Australia spokesperson Gino Vumbaca, as reported by ABC.
Vumbaca explained that insurers have regarded live events as a higher risk since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Somehow, they're thinking it'll be a safer festival if … we're not there, which flies in the face of the evidence that's actually there,” he said, warning other harm-prevention service providers that they would most likely face the same insurance problems in the future.
“This is a real problem over the horizon: any service that engages with people who use drugs, even though they're reducing harm or treating them, is going to find insurance increasingly difficult to obtain, and that's going to be problematic,” he continued.
The insurance industry has been calling for a federal insurance scheme for live events, with the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) emphasising that live event insurance will only be possible with government help. Early this year, peak body Live Performance Australia (LPA) also called on the federal government to support the live event industry.