WARRNAMBOOL City councillors last night met four doctors behind closed doors to hear an update on fluoridation research.
Despite a council decision last month for an open briefing by representatives from both sides of the argument, the late-afternoon meeting was held away from a public audience. The Standard was also shut out of the meeting.
The doctors earlier told The Standard they had rejected an open forum where they could have faced an intimidating audience.
However, they said they had not intended that the newspaper be excluded.
Wannon Water declined to attend and the authority’s managing director Grant Green sent a confidential explanation to city chief executive Bruce Anson.
Mayor Michael Neoh said all presenters had asked to meet councillors and officers only.
“We invited them and they are under no obligation to present at an open meeting,” he said.
“But in the interest of transparency I’d request that a report on the briefing come back to open council.”
He said it was policy for all councillor-officer deputation (CODs) committee meetings to be held in-camera and did not want to set a precedent by breaking that policy for the fluoridation meeting.
One of the presenters, Dr Natalie Ryan of Warrnambool, said she and two other anti-fluoride speakers, Dr Brendan Kay of Warrnambool and Dr Andrew Harmes of Adelaide had requested a low-profile meeting
They gave councillors a summary of recent research highlighting concerns about health risks from fluoridation.
A spokesman for Victoria’s chief health officer Dr John Carnie said there had been no request for the press to be excluded, merely a refusal to participate in an open forum setting.
“Dr Carnie presented research information that was not available to the previous council,” said Department of Human Services media officer Bram Alexander.
“We stick to facts, not to emotive language and poorly referenced material.”
Warrnambool anti-fluoride action group leader Peter Sycopoulis said the meeting should have been open because it was in the public interest.