Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick has ruled out mandatory fluoridation of the state’s water supplies.
Mandatory fluoridation was announced by the previous Labor premier Anna Bligh in December 2007.
But the Newman government put the decision in the hands of local government in December 2012, before the rollout was completed across the state.
Bundaberg Regional Council was the first to opt out and was followed by at least 16 other local government regions.
Some of Queensland’s biggest cities are now without fluoride in the water supply, including Cairns, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Warwick and Stanthorpe.
“Labor supports fluoridation of drinking water as a preventative oral health strategy,” a spokesman for Mr Dick told the ABC.
“We will pursue collaborative strategies between the Department of Health, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, and local councils to ensure the widest possible coverage of fluoridation for Queensland communities.”
As opposition leader, Ms Palaszczuk criticised the LNP for dumping mandatory fluoridation.
“They are actually allowing these councils to take Queensland backwards,” the Brisbane Times quoted her as saying in February 2013.
LNP Leader Lawrence Springborg said the Government’s latest stance was hypocritical.
“People will judge the Labor Party based on what they say and what they do,” he said.
“They’re now doing something completely different to what they said they would do.”
Professor Ian Meyers from the Australian Dental Association said the major parties should put politics aside and force fluoride where it is economically feasible.
“There may be some areas where, because of the way the water supplies are reticulated and how it’s organised, it may not be possible economically to introduce it. But they are usually the very small communities,” he said.
“The larger communities where they’ve got single water supplies or only a few water supplies, then certainly we’re very much in favour of mandating it where its economically possible, and we know there’s going to be public health benefits.”
Professor Meyers pointed to recent research by the University of Queensland that found a reduction in tooth decay of 19 per cent in children aged five to nine in the Logan-Beaudesert area since fluoride was added to the water supplies.
Queensland councils that have opted out of water fluoridation:
- Cassowary Coast
- Charters Towers
- Fraser Coast
- Mont Isa
- North Burnett
- South Burnett
- Southern Downs