RECENT Oberon Review letters and opinion pieces criticised the Oberon Council decision regarding the introduction of fluoride to the town water supply as well as criticising council processes. Many assertions made in the Review are inaccurate and misleading. Here are some facts.
First: Councillors received every single piece of correspondence from both pro and anti fluoride lobbyists and individuals. Councillors and council staff were very well-informed.
They received briefings from both anti and pro fluoride representatives (nominated as experts in their field), as well as attending four separate community consultation events where the public had the opportunity to express a view.
No councillor was coerced. All material was subject to careful scrutiny and analysis. The 5 to 3 vote in favour of fluoridation does not demonstrate that there were “party-like” alliances. It reflects the quality of the arguments and evidence presented to us, as well as the background, life experience and accumulated knowledge which individual councillors brought to their voting positions on this subject.
Second: The claims of 60 or 70 per cent community opposition to fluoride are inaccurate.
It is a fact that approximately 14 per cent of the adult population of the Oberon shire made a submission to council.
Of the 600 or so emails, letters, phone calls and valid petition signatures which were received by council, approximately 60 per cent were opposed and about 40 per cent were in favour. However, 86 per cent of the adult population did not express a view to council.
The phone poll conducted by The Social Research Centre (owned by The Australian National University) provided information about the views held across the wider community. It took a significant random sample across the shire using professional polling techniques (in order to provide greater than 95 per cent probability that the results were valid).
That random sample will have included people who put in submissions for and against fluoride, as well as the silent majority (86 per cent of adult residents).
The results from that poll showed 53 per cent were pro fluoride, 12 per cent were neither for nor against and 35 per cent of people were against fluoride. Even allowing for the maximum possible statistical error (about three per cent), that result is telling.
Claiming a 60 per cent figure for opposition to fluoride is therefore inaccurate and misleading.
Third: Overwhelming substantive evidence was provided that fluoride in the water supply is safe and provides a positive result in dental health.
Fluoride is endorsed by the World Health Organisation and virtually every medical and dental body in Australia. Practicing health professionals in Oberon and surrounding districts all support fluoride.
There has been no credible and compelling evidence provided to council of any dangers of fluoride at the concentrations approved in Australia for drinking water.
Fourth: All councillors were elected as independents and vote as such. The make-up of council represents the voters’ choice last September, celebrating the right to elect our own council to make decisions in the overall interests of Oberon. That process saw the election of five new members on the council from an electorate wanting change.
If any council decision arrived at is not to someone’s liking, that is unfortunate, but it is an inevitable part of our democratic process.
This vibrant community incorporates varied points of view and willingness to express opinion. Council is elected to make the best decisions possible given the available reliable information.
That decision has been made and the vote represented each councillor’s individual view of what was in the best interest of the Oberon community as a whole. (The vote of 5 to 3, in fact, closely reflects the result of the phone poll.)
Fifth: My concern has been that the debate be conducted respectfully and with intelligent exchange. It does not concern me that words such as “fascist” have been used by the anti fluoride group against me and others, as that label is untrue and, frankly, I have had much more dangerous things aimed at me by way more committed people.
However, as a community we do not accept name calling in our school playgrounds and it is not acceptable in public debate.
Unfortunately, such name calling behaviour can only detract from the anti fluoride case.
Finally, I have made my decision to support fluoridation of the town water supply on the basis of the scientific and medical evidence provided to me through submissions to council.
I made that decision for the overall benefit to the entire community which I have been elected to represent and am proud to serve.
Councillor Mark Kellam