National News

Plan for tackling Australian drug woes

Telling young people not to take drugs isn't working.

That's according to the head of a national drug services organisation and a former Australian Federal Police commissioner.

Instead, the nation should focus on reducing the harm caused by drugs, including offering pill testing at music festivals, the duo say.

"We can't have it both ways," Ted Noffs Foundation chief executive Matt Noffs told the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.

"Punishing people for using drugs has failed, and this must be considered a health issue."

Mr Noffs has joined forces with former AFP commissioner Mick Palmer to spruik a new plan aimed at controlling drugs in Australia.

Along with offering pill testing at music festivals and other events, it suggests establishing more drug monitoring rooms and expanding treatment services.

Improving engagement with disadvantaged young people and ending criminal charges that make it harder for people to get help are also included in the plan.

Mr Palmer said the plan for a "saner, safer" approach to drug control comes as the drug trade in Australia continues to get bigger and more prosperous.

"Standing still is not an option. Where we are is not where any of us would want to be," he told the National Press Club.

"Not even the strongest conservative could be happy with the results we're currently achieving, or for that matter, have ever achieved under the 'tough on drugs' prohibition mentality."

The former commissioner has called on politicians to be brave enough to trial new approaches.

"Have the courage to have the conversation," he said.

Both men spoke about how former prime minister John Howard's public approach to being tough on drugs was matched, behind the scenes, with harm minimisation initiatives that worked.

The Ted Noffs Foundation's latest campaign aims to raise awareness of how current drug laws are hurting kids and rally support for change through a petition at its website www.takecontrol.org.au.

The push comes after two young people in their 20s died of overdoses at a music festival in Penrith, in Sydney's west, this month.

An expert panel appointed by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will examine solutions to drugs at festivals following the deaths, but she has rejected calls for pill testing.

© AAP 2018