Public health — Yet another need for CIR

Andrew Phillips discusses the need for Citizens Initiated Referenda to enable people to influence government decisions on policies that affect their local communities.

As many South Australian readers might remember, the campaign to get C.I.R. (Citizens’ Initiated Referenda) a fair hearing in this state was steamrolled right from the start some years ago by the Rann Labor government.

Ex-Liberal MP, Mr. Peter Lewis threw his support behind the then minority Labor government under the proviso that the public would have an opportunity to discuss and possibly introduce CIR into this state.

As one would expect, the whole process became an uninspiring fizzler with Rann railroading the debate (much like Rudd’s 20-20 Summit) and the media paying it scant regard.

A golden opportunity to introduce direct democracy into an Australian state and hold arrogant politicians to account went begging and when one considers it was derailed by the very people whose power it would curtail, it should come as no surprise.

Despite the fact that the campaign was conducted in such a way as to leave the general public with little interest in the idea of controlling their so-called representatives (how convenient), this does not negate the need for such a system.

Most recently, we have seen a pressing need for constituents to be able to hold government accountable for their actions in order to make them stop and listen to local concerns down in the regional city of Mt Gambier in South Eastern South Australia.

The powers that be intend to introduce fluoride into the city’s water supply (bearing in mind the close proximity of the iconic Blue Lake to this city) and at no time allowed the general public to air the views, concerns or grievances about the issue.

A local group, “Choice Mt. Gambier” attempted to give the interested parties concerned the opportunity to voice their position on the issue as well as give local residents the chance to ask questions. While the residents attended the meeting for an open and educated debate, prominent MPs such as Premier Rann and Minister for Water Maywald refused to attend, as did a representative of the state’s water supplier, SA Water.

Not much to be said for approachable, open and transparent government in this instance….

There appears to be growing evidence indicating that fluoride is linked to a multitude of side effects, such as gastric problems, skin disorders, fluorosis of the teeth and asthma to name a few. The improvement in dental health is linked worldwide to the improvement in standards of living rather than the fluoridation of a nation’s water supply (as can be seen by the similar levels of dental health experienced by our counterparts in Queensland, a state that does not fluoridate).

However, this whole debate should not revolve entirely over whether one believes fluoride to be a toxic waste product that endangers public health or a wonder cure for potential oral health ailments.

The Australian Protectionist Party put out media releases on the subject and received coverage in papers such as the South East Borderwatch and a number of radio stations, not for the reason that we are “anti-fluoride”, but for the reason that this is a freedom of choice issue — a freedom that the government steadfastly refuses to defend.

People should have the right to determine what they consume, following an open and educated debate. If the people of Mt. Gambier decide by a majority that they are happy to have their water fluoridated — then so be it. Likewise those in Queensland.

However, what we are witnessing here is arrogant government forcing upon their own people something that by all accounts is not desired. The locals are not permitted to have their questions answered, not permitted to have an open debate and clearly have no avenue through which they can appeal.

With the introduction of a CIR system, our people can stop such dictatorial behaviour in it’s tracks and hold our politicians to account before the damage is done — rather than waiting 3 years down the track for the next election when politicians can once again confuse the electorate with their smoke and mirrors act and rampant pork barrelling.

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