Queensland Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg has stood by his decision as health minister under the previous LNP government to make water fluoridation optional, laying responsibility for a drop-off rate squarely at the feet of local governments.
In 2012 Mr Springborg scrapped legislation that made fluoridation mandatory for towns with a population of more than 1,000.
It saw many councils opt out of adding fluoride to their water supplies, including the major centres of Cairns, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Fraser Coast. Coverage has now fallen from almost 90 per cent of the Queensland population to 79 per cent.
The Australian Dental Association Queensland (ADAQ) said it was a worryingly low take-up.
Many councils cited cost as the reason they chose not to fluoridate but Mr Springborg said both sides of state politics put tens of millions of dollars on the table when they were each in office.
“This was a freedom of choice issue,” he said.
“We put in a significant amount of support for councils that wished to fluoridate their water supply.
“Some of the councils raised the issue of cost and government stood ready to provide support to them to be able to contribute to the capital investment.
“The ongoing running costs were a matter for the councils.”
Mr Springborg was quick to point out that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had also ruled out a return to mandatory fluoridation.
“We encourage communities to fluoridate their water supplies but we understand that councils and local communities want the option to do otherwise,” he said.
“And if the government wants to adopt a similar policy to that which the LNP in government had it’s a matter for them.”