December 07, 2007 | Graham

Anna Bligh produces a signature

The decision to flouridate Queensland’s water supply gives Premier Anna Bligh a signature achievement that should easily define her premiership for generations to come. Former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones, is most remembered for sewering Brisbane. Former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen had the street marches and being tried for corruption, but is also identified with the mining and tourism industries and Expo. Posterity needs an easy label to hang on you so it can remember you.
Bligh’s predecessor lacks such a signature as premier. I was contacted by a number of journalists on the retirement of Peter Beattie and asked what his defining policy achievements were. It was hard to find one. While Beattie touted the “Smart State” as a success, I don’t think our collective IQ actually increased during his term, it was mostly a rhetorical policy. And most of the Smart State innovation is stuff that would have happened under any government. Beattie extended trends, but he didn’t really start anything. In the end I decided his greatest achievement was reform of the Labor Party when he was Labor Party State Secretary.
Flouride is a particular family hobby horse. I endured hours of lectures from my father about how Brisbane should have flouridated water, like Vancouver, where I spent the first five years of my life. So I was partly fulfilling family destiny in 1997 when, as Queensland Liberal Party Campaign Chairman, I pushed for flouridating Brisbane’s water to be a central plank in that years mayoral campaign. Despite a tentative start by lord mayoral candidate Bob Mills the policy was still-born. There were too many anti-flouride zealots in the Liberal Party.
It was a pity. Flouride was good policy, and should have been good politics. Mills desperately needed an issue on which to stand-out; the uncumbent, Jim Soorley, was another anti-flouride zealot and actively kept it out of Brisane’s water supply so we were guaranteed a fight; the dental association was prepared to offer support; and it should have appealed most to that key swing group – parents (particulalry female ones) of young children.
Now Bligh’s going to make it happen. Full marks to her. It’s a promising early start, and if she does no more in her term of office, she’ll certainly be remembered for this.

Posted by Graham at 12:58 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Whether families choose to use fluoride or not is up to them. I have found enough information to decide many years ago that a toxic, industrial by-product is not suitable for human consumption. I respect the choices of families to paint it, chew it or swallow it in the quest for dental health. A growing number of families and individuals make conscious decisions every day to preserve the health we have, opting for wholistic and preventative consumption, rather than putting blind faith in a sick care system promoting ‘magic bullet’ solutions. Use the funds educating parents and children about the logic of nutrition. Ban the practice of placing junk food at all checkouts. Formulate a campaign similar to that of cigarette smoking. It could be titled – Nobody Has Cavities Anymore! Putting this fluoride in our public water system negates my choice in the matter, and renders misguided politicians responsible for decisions they are not qualified or educated to make.

    Comment by Roxanne Iwinski — December 9, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  2. Fluoride in drinking water has not been proven to prevent cavities. The research states that topically applied fluoride can harden tooth enamel. This toxin however, has been proven to cause numerous health issues. If parents were worried about their childrens’ teeth they would be feeding them wholesome foods instead of the garbage seen in most shopping trolleys. If this goes ahead Captain Bligh will pay at the polling booth. Hopefully she’ll see sense.

    Comment by Stephanie Messenger — December 10, 2007 @ 6:13 am

  3. To anti-fluoride folks: all of the largest randomised trials show that NOTHING correlates with improved dental health except contact between the teeth and fluoride. The supply of chocolates, sugar etc. has been increasing and cavities have been decreasing for 50 years, and this is entirely due to the fact that toothpaste and some water supplies contain fluoride. There is no solid evidence connecting fluoride in concentrations commonly seen in toothpaste or water supplies to any adverse health effects. Your objections are simply symptomatic of a fear of modernity.

    Comment by Jason — December 10, 2007 @ 9:45 am

  4. I am very onhappy with the thought we could have Sodium Fluoride added to our drinking water. It carries with it many heavy metals – mercury, cadmium , arsenic, etc. which my son has a very poor ability to metabolise out of his body, like many thousands of others in this state.
    The American Dental Assoc. has recommended that no baby under the age of 12 months be given fluoride in any form – what are the babies being bottle fed here expected to have their formula mixed with?
    It has been associated with cancer, alzheimers, & osteoporosis. I also have a thyroid condition for which fluoride is contra indicated.
    Fluoride has been shown to be only effective topically – not systemically.
    Reverse this decision now, before anyone gets hurt.

    Comment by Jane Leonforte — December 11, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  5. It’s funny how modern proven science still brings out the “nutters” – no wonder the CEC still exist. Go to and search “fluoride” (this site has NEVER been successfully sued despite many attempts by the “complementary” community – probably because every word they publish is backed by scientific evidence)
    By the way, I agree with you comment about Beattie’s biggest contribution being befoe he was premier. Where is the Nat/Lib prepared to do the same?

    Comment by Rocket — December 11, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

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