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by the numbers - the Bega Valley fluoride debate continues

Dear Beagle Editor, As always we read with interest how your council uses statistics and submissions that best represent their agenda to bolster their determination to do what they wish rather than listen and respect the voice of the people. The petition of 11,000 votes against your rate rise was one example where we noted the comment that those who didn't sign must therefore support the rate rise. Your southern readers following our fluoridation debates might be interested in our latest media release that is also about statistics and numbers. by the numbers …

One of the most dishonest tactics used to denigrate the views of those opposed to the fluoridation of the remainder of the shire’s drinking water supplies, has been the misuse or abuse of statistics, designed to discredit them.

A simple example involved one well-known Merimbula dentist arguing that the 316 submissions made to council opposing fluoridation didn’t really mean anything because 316 people represented only 1% of the shire’s population.

Of course, our dental expert neglected to mention that the same simplistic & disingenuous logic demonstrates that the 50 submissions received in support of fluoridation represented less than one fifth of one per cent of the shire’s population.

Using the shire’s population of 31,000 as the basis for his calculation, our friendly dentist conveniently ignored the fact that only 23,800 residents are adults, while only 19,000 of those adults were included in the survey by virtue of them being connected to the shire’ town water supplies.

And, if we were to take out the adult populations of Bega & Tathra, who are already receiving fluoridated drinking water, that would leave a population base for calculation purposes of 12,500, which would mean that the percentage of submissions opposed grows to 2.5%, with the percentage of submissions supporting fluoridation still less than half of one percent.

Of course, just like NSW Health is trying to do in its latest report to Council, what our pseudo-scientific expert & phony statistician really wanted is for council to ignore the submissions entirely, cleverly arguing that regardless of their number, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people must support fluoridation because they didn’t make a submission opposing it!!

Well, we think it might also be worth looking at some other numbers to see how they might influence council’s thinking on the issue.

Let’s start with the big picture …

There are currently 195 countries in the world, but only 25 have drinking water fluoridation programs (13%), while only 5% of the world’s current population of 7.4billion people drink fluoridated water.

Only 11 countries have more than 50% of their population drinking fluoridated water, with Australia having the third highest rate of consumption in the world (80%) behind Brunei & Hong Kong, suggesting that we as a nation have already well & truly bought into the “fluoridation is good for us” message.

But the figures of greatest relevance to our community will be tabled by NSW Health at this week’s council meeting, in a lame attempt to discredit the robust community opposition to its proposal.

In her submission to council included in the Agenda for this week’s council meeting, Tracey Oakman, Director, Public Health Unit, Murrumbidgee & Southern NSW Local Health Districts, boldly asserts that the NSW Health’s POPULATION HEALTH SURVEY- 2005-2008 (NSW Health Department 2009) revealed “around 87% support for fluoridation”, across NSW

Wow!! How about that?

Well, yes, how about that indeed?

It would seem that the survey referred to by Ms Oakman involved only 12,000 people across NSW, with 87% or 10,400 of the people surveyed supporting fluoridation; which means that the equivalent of just one fifth of one percent of the 5.2m adult population of NSW supported fluoridation.

Of course we understand that NSW Health would want to promote the results of its surveys & we do respect the views of the 10,400 people across NSW who, according to NSW Health, support the fluoridation of drinking water supplies.

But if it’s good enough for NSW Health to rely on the opinion of just one fifth of one percent of the adult population of NSW to support its position, how can council ignore the opinions of the 2.5% of the eligible adult population of the Bega Valley who took the trouble to make formal submissions opposing the proposal, let alone the 2,000 voices (6.5% of the total population of the shire) who confirmed their opposition via the public opinion polls conducted by the local media?

For its part, the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) believes very strongly that the only views that are really relevant when it comes to the Bega Valley are those of the people who live here.

So, if we are really serious about respecting the opinions of the people of the Bega Valley, why not ask them … the entire adult population … via a plebiscite at the next local government elections in three years time?

The BVSRRA believes that there is no justifiable reason for council not to defer its decision on that basis & it believes that NSW Health would be obliged to respect such a decision, while the community would respect council for having the maturity to wait for the community to decide the issue.

In the meantime, council & the NSW government could turn their attention to doing something far more important, such as resolving the chronic water quality problem that besets our community.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

#Community #Opinion #Bega