Candidates for the far north WA seat of Kimberley are supporting opponents to the introduction of fluoride to Kununurra’s drinking water ahead of next year’s state election, putting them at odds with party policies and mainstream medical research.
Kununurra’s drinking water is due to be fluoridated next year, and Health Minister John Day, a former dentist, is a passionate advocate of water fluoridation.
But Liberal candidate Warren Greatorex and Labor MP Josie Farrer both say the community should be allowed to decide whether fluoride is added to the town’s water supply.
Mr Greatorex said water fluoridation was detrimental to public health.
“I have educated myself on this, there is a bit of science behind it, but from what I can gather it tends to hinder it more than benefit it,” he said.
“But it comes back to the choice of the people.”
He said he would fight for the right of Kununurra voters to reject plans for water fluoridation.
Mr Day said 92 per cent of the state had fluoridated water, based on scientific evidence that supported its health benefits.
“I know there’s a small vocal group in the community who are opposed to important public health measures, whether it be fluoridation or vaccination programs,” Mr Day said.
“But their comments are not based on any reputable science.”
Labor candidate at odds with party
Ms Farrer helped Kununurra residents draft a petition opposing water fluoridation that attracted 771 signatures, which was tabled in parliament by the Labor Party.
She was unavailable for an interview but her office told the ABC she supported the right of the Kununurra community to choose whether or not the town water supply was fluoridated.
Labor’s health spokesman Roger Cook said the party did not agree with the views of anti-fluoride campaigners.
“I’ll let Josie speak for herself. I can tell you that the WA Labor Party stands for a strong fluoridation program in Western Australia,” Mr Cook said.
“This stuff should be driven by the science, not populist political positioning by local Liberal Party candidates.”
The Australian Medical Association said evidence that water fluoridation benefits public health was unequivocal.
“There’s a tidal wave of evidence that shows that fluoridation is safe and effective,” WA vice-president Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said.
“If it is good for the greater part of the community, then it is possible that some of the rights of the individuals may have to be foregone.”