PREMIER Peter Beattie has told Queenslanders to “forget about” campaigning to fluoridate Queensland’s water supplies for the next two years.
This is despite a Galaxy Poll conducted for The Courier-Mail showing 62 per cent of Queenslanders are in favour of adding fluoride to supplies.
Mr Beattie said his Government would not consider the controversial issue of fluoridation until it had delivered the water grid and taken control of the state’s water supplies from local councils.
The water grid is not expected to be completed until December next year while the Government will not have final control of water assets until mid-2009.
“I want everyone focused on building the water grid . . . that’s the most important thing,” Mr Beattie said.
“We’re not going to make any decision on fluoride until we’ve done that and getting control of the assets is another two years away . . . they should forget about it.”
But public debate on the controversial issue is set to be reignited following the Galaxy Poll findings.
The poll of 800 voters throughout the state found 29 per cent of people were opposed to fluoridation and 9 per cent were undecided.
Mr Beattie’s position is at odds with his own Health Minister, Stephen Robertson, who is a long-term supporter of fluoridation.
“I’m in favour of doing this, but the decision to fluoridate all water supplies is one for Cabinet,” Mr Robertson said.
“Responsibility for town water supplies rests with local government and the State Government has a standing offer of $6 million to assist those councils with start-up installation of fluoridation equipment at water treatment plants.”
To date, no council has agreed to take up the offer.
Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek also supports fluoridation.
“As a dentist, I’m in favour of it,” Mr Langbroek said.
“There is no doubt that we have a higher decayed, missing and filled rate among Queensland children than in other states. I’m encouraging my Coalition colleagues that this is a major health issue for both children and adults.”
The issue has polarised Queenslanders for many years.
Prime Minister John Howard maintains that dental care is a state, not federal, issue.
Supporters say urgent action is needed, pointing to evidence that children born after 1970, when fluoride was added to water, have teeth twice as healthy as their parents.
Opponents claim that being “force-fed” fluoride is an unhealthy and unwelcome option.
Ahead of a June 15 meeting with the Health Minister, Australian Dental Association state president Martin Webb said that since the Government announced it would take over southeast Queensland water supplies, there were no excuses for the state not to fall into line with the national trend.
Interstate, 15 million residents have fluoridation. Brisbane is the only capital city without it.