A FORMER One Nation MP has almost single-handedly halted the fluoridation of Queensland’s water supply, convincing the Newman government to let rural councils opt out of the public health program.
This week’s state budget cut $14 million that had been set aside by the former Labor government to complete the rollout of water fluoridation in the state.
When Anna Bligh took over as premier in 2007, she delivered a solution to the state’s appalling dental health record, providing capital funding to councils to fluoridate their water supplies without any need for a plebiscite. That was despite anti-fluoridation campaigners, including former Brisbane lord mayor Jim Soorley, rallying against the move and councils worried they would be left with maintenance costs.
About 95 per cent of the population was expected to have fluoridated water by this year, compared with 5 per cent when the issue was put on the government agenda seven years ago. However, the budget papers show progress has slowed, with 87 per cent of the population covered.
While some councils complained on cost grounds, Tablelands Mayor Rosa Lee Long has fought fluoridation on both cost and ideological grounds, even surveying ratepayers in her north Queensland council to demonstrate community’s opposition.
Ms Lee Long, a former One Nation MP turned independent in the state parliament, said she had read of the government backdown in The Australian but had yet to receive written notification.
“It’s a big issue up here and it’s sounding positive,” she said.
“A lot of our populous is dead against fluoride being put in the water. They’ve let us know loud and clearly that we don’t want it.”
Ms Lee Long said a survey of Mareeba residents found two-thirds were opposed to it. She said there was resentment of the former Bligh government for imposing the program on councils with no consultation. “I personally don’t think it should be forced on anybody. I think if you like fluoride and are really keen on the idea, you should go and get the tablets,” she said..
“I don’t like dictatorship.”
Premier Campbell Newman was the lord mayor of Brisbane when Labor began discussing fluoridation, and he demanded the state take the political pain instead of leaving the decision to councils. One of his cabinet ministers, former dentist John-Paul Langbroek, at one point introduced a private member’s bill to mandate that councils fluoridate their water supplies, but it was opposed by Labor until Ms Bligh came up with a solution.
The about-face by the Newman government will allow the Cairns, Cloncurry, Mackay, Blackall-Tambo, Murweh, Barcaldine, Maranoa, Balonne, Burdekin, Carpentaria, Cassowary Coast, Paroo, Tablelands, Toowoomba, Townsville, and Whitsunday to shelve plans to fluoridate.