Claims fluoride act 'stifles community debate'

Kentish mayor Don Thwaites.
Kentish mayor Don Thwaites.

The state government has taken a swipe at local councils attempting to change Tasmania’s fluoride legislation.

This week the Meander Valley Council voted to support a push for a change in the Fluoride Act which would allow local governments in Tasmania to poll residents on the issue of fluoride.

The motion will be put to councils at the Local Government Association of Tasmania conference on July 26.

But Rene Hidding, the Acting Minister for Local Government, called on local government to take the issue seriously. 

“Public health policy in Tasmania is a very serious matter and should  be based on the advice of health professionals, not opinion polls,” he said. 

“The government supports fluoridation of our water based on the advice of health professionals, and we won't be changing that.”

The Kentish Council is leading the crusade to amend state legislation to allow councils to run elector polls about fluoride in drinking water.

The motion scheduled for the meeting said changing the Fluoridation Act would allow Tasmanians to “participate in information sharing and debate” and “state their informed position” about fluoridation through a referendum.

But the outcome of the community poll is non-binding, meaning the council will not have to make a decision based on the community’s view.

When asked about the need for an elector poll rather than community consultation, Kentish mayor Don Thwaites said the motion was about repealing a section of the act that was “stifling any debate on whether a town’s water should be fluoridated or not”.

“There is a certain amount of community consultation that could be done, but it seems to be that rule from the Fluoride Act is outdated and belongs in, I won’t say a fascist regime, but a very restrictive regime where it stifles any action that a council would want to take,” he said. 

“It’s not about a blanket removal of fluoride, it’s about having the discussion and asking our people what they want.

“It has got to be an informed debate that takes place.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 87 per cent of Tasmanians receive mains water supply from TasWater.

Of this population, about 97 per cent of those people receive a fluoridated supply.

The Health Department said the National Health and Medical Research Council strongly recommended fluoridation of drinking water as an effective, safe way to prevent dental cavities.

In 1953 the water supply at Beaconsfield became the first fluoridated supply in Australia.