Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride back on agenda for Ballarat

Source: The Courier | April 29th, 2003 | by Julia Hodges
Location: Australia

THE State Government is again considering introducing fluoride into Ballarat’s water supply.

A spokesman for Health Minister Bronwyn Pike yesterday said the government planned to undertake a consultation process that would gauge community sentiment on the issue.

The spokesman, Ben Hart, said the State Government was “setting the scene for debate in the community”.

“We think it’s better for the community if there’s fluoride but obviously people will know what is better for them,” he said.

The State Government is yet to set a starting date for public consultation and has not defined a trigger point that represents when community support has been obtained.

The State Government has, however, denied reports it would force areas like Ballarat to fluoridate water if water boards failed to take the step, saying “if the community agrees we will legislate it, if not, we won’t”.

The issue of fluoridating Ballarat’s water was brought into the spotlight 12 months ago by the then Health Minister John Thwaites who was campaigning for the state-wide introduction of fluoride.

The suggestion of fluoride introduction sparked waves of debate in the community.

At the time the Australian Dental Association supported the move, saying it would provide long-term health benefits. The association has continued to express this view.

However, the Anti-Fluoridation Association of Victoria was strongly against a fluoridation push it described as mass medication without people’s consent.

Yesterday the association’s Victorian president Glen Walker expressed concern about the method that would be used to survey the community.

“I challenge the health minister and the premier to say they will give a referendum. To me, that is the only democratic way,” he said.

Ballarat West MLA Karen Overington, who undertook a private fluoride survey of about 3000 people last March, yesterday revealed the findings.

She said the community was evenly divided in its view, and for this reason she supported a community consultation process.

While Ms Overington was opposed to introducing fluoride last year, she said “there’s room for debate on the pros and cons still to be laid on the table”.

Opposition Health Minister David Davis said the Liberal Party would be looking closely into the “crisis” of Victoria’s dental care.

“We certainly have to look at other public health measures and this would include an examination of fluoridation,” he said.

Central Highlands Water board chairman John Barnes said CHW was neither for or against fluoridation.

“We don’t think we have the expertise to be able to determine the issue,” he said.

“We would be in favour in some sort of process that would involve the community.”

Mr Barnes stressed the importance of both sides of the issues being presented.