Festival Season Means It's Time To Brush Up On Your Rights In A Strip Search

You can't be touched, for starters.

Festival season is almost here, which means expect plenty of police, sniffer dogs and strip searches. You know, until the debate over pill testing finally ends and the government decides that it’s probably a better option.

Right now there’s an inquiry happening into the strip search of a then 16-year-old girl at the 2018 Splendour In The Grass. The girl, known to the public as BRC, was brought to the attention of police after a sniffer dog sat down next to her. She was taken to a tent away from everyone else where she originally thought she was going to be patted down for drugs. An officer told her to strip, squat down, and even to lift up a panty liner to be inspected. No drugs were found.

In a statement, BRC pointed out that she was on her own and really scared, despite not having any drugs on her. “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated,” she said. 

“Every time I saw a police officer at the festival I started to feel anxious. My whole body would clench up and I would get clammy and hot. I was scared to make eye contact with them in case it happened again. Each time I walked into the festival I would feel anxious.”


BRC was one of six people under the age of 18 who were strip searched at Splendour without contacting a parent or guardian. The officer involved has since admitted that the strip search was unlawful – so not quite technically illegal, but not allowed either. Either way, it shouldn’t have happened.

The officer involved also admitted that of the 19 strip searches they did during the festival, they found only one single valium tablet. Of the 143 strip searches done in total at Splendour, only 10% of people had drugs on them.

This all began when a sniffer dog sat down next to BRC. While sniffer dogs are adorable, they’re not super reliable and a 2011 study found that they can indicate false positives up to 80% of the time – which was the case here. So, if you’re off to a festival this summer and a dog sits down next to you, what do you do?

Obviously don’t resist. Greens MP David Shoebridge suggests beginning with “I don’t consent to this search”. Comply, but note your objection.

That’s a no from me.

If the situation escalates to a strip search, there are more rules designed to protect you. You can’t be strip searched in public, and you should be searched by an officer of the same gender as you. This is one of those times where gender is seen as pretty binary though, there probably won’t be too much thought beyond male and female.

You can’t be physically touched, especially not your genitals. Mr Shoebridge also believes it’s  “probably unlawful” to be asked to squat. 

If you ask a police officer for their name, rank, and station, they have to give it to you. Police also aren’t allowed to stop bystanders (that aren’t getting in the way) from filming them doing their job.

If you’re off to a festival over the summer, have fun, know your rights, and stay safe.

Let’s Drug Test Politicians Instead Of Welfare Recipients And See Where That Gets Us

What could possibly go wrong..?

This week, because apparently there was nothing better to do, Scott Morrison has decided to reintroduce a bill to parliament that has already been rejected twice before. The bill in question is one to drug test welfare recipients, namely people on Newstart and Youth Allowance.

It would start with a trial period of two years, making about 5000 people who have recently started getting welfare take random drug tests. The lucky places chosen to be the trial locations are Logan in Queensland, Canterbury-Bankstown in New South Wales, and Mandurah in Western Australia. If the government reckon those trials are successful, we could see drug tests rolled out all over the country.

Now all this has already been shot down twice. Labor, the Greens, and a ton of medical experts have spent the past two-and-a-half years telling people that it’s a bad plan. People who have studied how similar programs operate overseas say that it won’t work, and could actually make things worse for people on welfare.

Despite everybody telling them that this is a terrible idea, the Government is pushing ahead. The bill could very well pass this time, and that could be down to the deciding vote of Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie. She says she’ll support it on one condition: politicians have to cop random drug tests too.

Both Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann have said they’d be up for it, but I have three major questions:

  • What will the consequences for politicians be if they test positive, as opposed to a Newstart recipient if they test positive?
  • Will they test for the same drugs?
  • Who is going to try and enforce the politicians’ tests?

Let’s start with the consequences. Back in July, Labor MP Will Fowles lost the plot in a fit of rage and smashed up the door of a Canberra hotel. After the fact, he apologised unreservedly and admitted he had been dealing with addiction. He was met with the support he undoubtedly needed, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews saying of him:

“He’s an outstanding person and someone who I have known for a long time, what he’s done here though is completely wrong and he has apologised and it’s appropriate that he does that.”

When you’re on welfare though, if you fail two random drug tests you get put on a cashless welfare card for two years. That means 80% of your welfare money gets put on a debit card that physically can’t be used to buy alcohol or to gamble, and as far as I can tell, that’s about all the support you get.

Well that problem’s solved…

My next question, will they test for the same drugs? The test for welfare recipients screens for ice, ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. It looks like, yes, they would test for the same drugs, but politicians live a very different life than your average Canterbury-Bankstown resident.

While nobody has drug tested the waste water of Parliament House in particular, they have drug tested the waste water for all of Canberra. What they found is that Canberra has some of the highest levels of oxycodone, fentanyl and cocaine consumption in the country, and that the amount of MDMA that Canberra is taking is on the increase. The only major overlap there is the test for cocaine.


I had more trouble finding answers to who would be enforcing the results of the politicians tests. For people on welfare, the Department of Social Services are the ones lined up to give the drug tests and keep track of the results. Somehow I seriously doubt that politicians would be drug tested under the same scheme.

I guess it would be a government department of some description, but that would probably get real dodgy real quickly. I can absolutely see somebody being paid $100,000 in an ALDI bag to fudge a drug test result. 

Maybe we’ll be drug testing politicians soon, and maybe we won’t. While a positive test would be pretty life destroying for someone on welfare, I don’t think it will matter to pollies too much tbh.

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