ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government has condemned the calls from within the Queensland Government to outlaw the fluoridation of water.
The Queensland Government has already revoked compulsory fluoridation, handing the decision to councils, but a Liberal National Party backbencher has gone further, arguing for fluoride to be banned.
Stephanie Smail reports.
STEPHANIE SMAIL: The Queensland Government says it endorses fluoride in water supplies but it won’t force councils to introduce it.
A number of councils are now saying they’ll get rid of it or avoid introducing it in the first place.
The Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says the Queensland Government should reconsider.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Essentially what the Government is doing is shoving this responsibility onto councils and I think that this is an issue that really is much better dealt with at a state level.
It’s an important health measure, it’s important to prevent dental decay that there’s fluoride in the water and leaving it in some ad hoc way to councils to do, particularly when we know that councils are under budget pressure and they might see this is a way of saving a few dollars, I think is very irresponsible.
STEPHANIE SMAIL: Now a Liberal National Party backbencher is taking the issue a step further.
Jason Woodforth says he and almost half of the Liberal National Party’s huge backbench want fluoride banned completely in Queensland. He describes fluoride as a toxic chemical.
Tanya Plibersek says that’s an uneducated position.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s Dr Google leading people astray again. You can find all sorts of nutty things on the internet about, you know, the harmful effects of this or that and people should be very, very careful what they believe when they’re reading it from these sorts of sources.
If you ask doctors and scientists like the National Health and Medical Research Council, like the World Health Organization, like the Australian Medical Association and they have looked at the science and they have considered it and they have discussed it and they are able to say this is safe and it’s important to protect our teeth.
STEPHANIE SMAIL: Senior Queensland Government Minister and former dentist, John Paul Langbroek, says he supports water fluoridation and he’s confident the majority of backbenchers do too.
JOHN PAUL LANGBROEK: We’ll be discussing those issues when we have our party room meeting next year but I’m confident that the bulk of our party room supports, as does the bulk of the population, that water fluoridation is safe, effective way of protecting teeth, especially for those who are unable to help themselves.
People are allowed to express their views. We have a broad church, unlike the Labor Party which represents a narrow group of sectional interests. In our party we have people from small business, from the professions, including teaching and medicine, engineering of course, and as I say we think that that’s a stark contrast to the Labor Party who has to vote as one and are not allowed to express their views.
STEPHANIE SMAIL: About 87 per cent of Queenslanders drink fluoridated water, but that could change if councils opt out.
Tanya Plibersek says it’s a step backward and could cost millions in long-term dental health spending.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: In 2002, the Victorian Government estimated that the 25 years of fluoridation that they had in their water supply had saved the Victorian community nearly $1 billion in avoided dental costs.
It makes a huge difference. There will be dentists who tell you that they can tell someone who grew up in Queensland because of the state of their teeth as adults.
ELEANOR HALL: That’s the Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek ending Stephanie Smail’s report.