THE State Government has been accused of abrogating its responsibility on the water fluoridation debate by dumping it in the laps of local government.
Councillors from southeast Queensland’s major local government authorities yesterday gritted their teeth over Premier Peter Beattie’s decision to force individual towns and cities to decide whether to fluoridate their water or not.
It was feared that many councils which shared water resources could be put in the position of having to use fluoridated water from other shires against the will of residents.
“The Government seems to be abrogating its responsibility on a major public health issue,” said a spokesman for Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, who has stated his opposition to water fluoridation in the past.
“It is a little bit like taking a decision on daylight saving and making it optional for each shire.”
The move to pressure local government authorities into introducing fluoride into water came just weeks after Queensland councils voted to make it a State Government issue. At the Local Government Association of Queensland annual conference in Brisbane, the representatives of about 125 councils called on the Beattie Government to take ownership of the issue.
LGAQ executive director Greg Hallam said water fluoridation was an issue which polarised shires. Mr Hallam questioned the accuracy of government figures of large support for fluoridation, and $6 million to implement it.
He said an LGAQ poll conducted last year found that the level of support for it was “dreadful” and the cost was about $80 million.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said water fluoridation was a major health issue which should be handled at State Government level. He said an extensive public debate was warranted.
Pine Rivers Shire Mayor Yvonne Chapman said the Premier’s threats to force fluoridation on the public should be an incentive for people to buy water tanks.
“How dare he go to this extreme without consulting the public,” she said.
Gold Coast City Council health spokesman Cr Bob La Castra said water fluoridation was an issue which required a “conscience vote” rather than a policy position.”
I don’t have a problem with council making the decision,” he added.
Mr Beattie said people knew the State Government was behind it and would not hold local government responsible.
“We have put it clearly on the record that not only do we want the fluoridation of Queensland water, we are actually putting our money, State Government money, up to encourage it,” he said.