9 May 2017 – last update 21 May 2019
Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Michael Gannon has repeatedly made public statements promoting the dumping of industrial fluoride pollution into public water supplies, going back at least as far as early 2014. Gannon was made president of the Western Australian branch of the AMA on 4 June 2014 (AMAWA 2014), having previously been vice president, and was elected national dictator of the AMA on 29 May 2016 (AMA 2016). I started campaigning against forced-fluoridation online in late 2012, and in that time I have seen extreme hypocrisy from fluoridationists over and over and over again. None of the perpetrators of forced-fluoridation I have encountered have been bigger hypocrites than Michael Gannon, however, simply because it is not possible for anyone to be a bigger hypocrite than him; he is at the furthest reaches of the extreme lunatic fringe, though far from alone.
Every sane person knows that forced-fluoridation is unethical. They know that using public water supplies to deliver any medication is unethical, and that the fluoridationist claims that their behaviour is ethical because the fluoride they say prevents tooth decay is not a medication, or because people don’t have to drink the water, or because the ends justify the means, are absurd. The dumping of industrial fluoride pollution into public water supplies under the guise of preventing tooth decay is a clear violation of the human right to informed consent to medical intervention (UNESCO 2005), and is therefore unethical even before the evidence of physical harm is taken into account. Fluoridationists do not have the right to interfere with other people’s bodies, regardless of how much better they think they understand people’s interests than those people do themselves, and neither does anyone else. Those who have taken the time to look at the evidence also know that taking fluoride in water is an entirely unproven treatment, and is therefore a human experiment which violates the Nuremberg Code (Cross and Carton 2003). The idea that the spiking of public water supplies with fluoride in the name of public health is not a medical intervention is a legal fiction.
From what I have seen, Gannon does not bother to address the ethical argument against forced-fluoridation; he simply asserts that it is ethical or, more often, ignores the question of ethics entirely. Apparently he believes not only that fluoride is God for teeth, but that he himself is a God whose job it is to pronounce the truth to the ignorant masses, without reason or evidence. This is what he had to say at the National Press Club on 19 August 2016 (AMA 2016).
I think that it’s perhaps good for the last question to remind us all that we’re in National Science Week, and underlying the thousands of years of ethical medical tradition and what I like to call the art of medicine, there is medical science and we will always go back to evidence for what works and doesn’t work. So I don’t believe in the freedom to take the fluoride out of the water and I don’t believe in the freedom to say that I’m not going to vaccinate my children and do my bit for the rest of society. But I’m there, the AMA’s there to help.
He could have said “I don’t believe in freedom, apart from the freedom of the medical industry to do whatever it likes” – that is what his “ethics” amount to. He could have added that he is a fascist and fascists do not believe in freedom. (As an aside, the idea of thousands of years of ethical medical tradition in the West is farcical. Evidently Gannon is just as ignorant of history as everything else, but that is another story.) There is no acknowledgement from him of the right to informed consent. If we are to salvage some kind of argument from what he said by attempting to fill in the gaps in his gibberish, it is that people do not have the right to choose whether or not they or their children take fluoride for the purpose of preventing tooth decay because the evidence says that taking fluoride in water is beneficial. So the argument is that consequences trump human rights, that the ends justify the means; it is essentially a utilitarian argument. The idea that violating human rights does not have its own consequences, which are independent of any direct health effects and almost inevitably negative, is naive (or cynical). Regardless, even if fluoride were the elixir of life it would be an abuse of human rights, and therefore unethical, to dump it into public water supplies for a claimed medical purpose. As it happens, Gannon makes no attempt whatsoever to provide any evidence of benefit or safety, but I’ll come to that later.
It’s interesting that the quote above is the only comment I can find from Gannon which mentions ethics in the context of forced-fluoridation. According to the AMA website he was “Chair of the AMA’s Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee” for two years prior to becoming AMA president (AMA 2016). He is keen to mention ethics in the context of other issues, but not forced-fluoridation. Presumably the purpose of the aforementioned committee is to figure out how best to get away with unethical behaviour, which he thinks is vital, as indicated by his 30 January 2017 tweet which reads “Welcome to 1st yr MD students UWA. Start with lecture on medical #ethics. As you should. It’s the most important topic of all #almamater”. On 25 November 2016 he tweeted “#WhiteRibbonDay Not just Men against women. Women against men, same sex, elder abuse. No violence acceptable. Ever.” Forced-fluoridation is an act of indiscriminate and ongoing violence against everyone who is subjected to it, so Michael Gannon is the worst kind of hypocrite.
On 15 September 2016 Gannon tweeted “Fewer media voices, a diminishing fourth estate is a threat to good public policy, to democracy” in relation to media ownership in Western Australia. Australia is not a democracy, despite the self-serving claims of the political elite to the contrary, and you cannot threaten something which does not exist. Australia is more accurately described as an elected dictatorship, plutocracy, or pseudodemocracy, as is every other country in the “free world”, even though most do not impose forced-fluoridation. In her 1986 book Fluoride in Australia: A Case to Answer, Wendy Varney wrote “[the NHMRC] opposes suggestions that referenda should be held, or public attitudes taken into account” (21) and “That referendum [in Shoalhaven, New South Wales in 1979] is one of the few in Australia which recorded a vote in favour of fluoridation, but not without a massive campaign by fluoridation advocates in which extra batches of leaflets were air-lifted and dental students recruited when it seemed that the campaign might be lost.” (26) and “While there has been less academic literature in Australia attempting to analyse popular opposition to fluoridation, the pro-fluoridation lobby here has learned well the American lesson that fluoride is not a topic for the layperson and that suggestions of referenda are to be fiercely resisted. That lesson has been driven home further in the instances where fluoridation has gone to a referendum. Out of over twenty referenda held on the issue in Australia, only three results have favoured fluoridation.” (87-88) I have only been able to find eight instances of Australian referenda/plebiscites on forced-fluoridation since 1985. Mount Isa, Queensland in 2013 (Kenna 2013; NWS 2013), Tenterfield, New South Wales in 2005 (TS 2012), Bellingen, New South Wales in 2004 and 1987 (ABC 2004), Clermont, Queensland in 2000 (FO 2012), Coffs Harbour, New South Wales in 1991 (CHCC 2004, 2), and Hastings, New South Wales in 1991 (Randall and Thompson 2014, 140) all voted for sanity. The 2004 vote in Deniliquin, New South Wales was the only result in favour of involuntary mass medication (Sivaneswaran 2010). Tenterfield actually voted “overwhelmingly” against forced-fluoridation in 1962, 1980, and 2005, but has been subjected to fluoride dumping since 2012 regardless (TSC 2017). The 2005 vote was 80% to 20% against (QSW 2008). The voluntary referendum in Mount Isa returned an 89% result against. The 2004 vote in Bellingen was 71% against, and the 1987 vote 2:1 against, but that did not stop the imposition of forced-fluoridation in 2010 (Burnet 2016). Coffs Harbour voted against 63% to 37% in 1991, with forced-fluoridation starting in 2009 (CHCC). Hastings voted against 71% to 29% in 1991, with forced-fluoridation starting in 2012 (Fairhurst 2014). An “overwhelming majority” voted against in Clermont (ABC 2007). The sole pro-poisoning vote in Deniliquin was won by a relatively small margin of 57% to 43%.
To my knowledge, no referendum on forced-fluoridation has ever taken place in any major Australian city. A look at the history of Australian referenda at the National, and State and Territory levels, which are available on the respective electoral commission websites except for Victoria’s, did not reveal any on the question of dumping fluoride pollution into public water supplies. Mandatory statewide forced-fluoridation has always been imposed on Australian populations by politicians, as was the case in 2008 in Queensland when Labor Premier Anna Bligh and her lackeys legislated to force fluoride waste down Queenslanders’ throats (Feeney 2012; SQ 2008), for example. Brisbane was the last of Australia’s major cities to fall to the polluters. At the next state election in 2012, Labor was handed the most severe defeat of any state government in Queensland history (Fraser 2012). (Anna Bligh recently became Australian Bankers’ Association CEO (ABC 2017), in keeping with her allegiance to the corporate elite. So much for the Australian “Labor” Party. Both Labor and the Liberal Party of Australia, which are Australia’s major political parties, have consistently supported illegal fluoride dumping over the decades, a practice which is highly authoritarian, and the latter organised crime syndicate is essentially the equivalent of the Republican Party in the US and the Conservative Party in the UK, despite the name. So much for the “Liberal” Party.) Later in 2012 mandatory forced-fluoridation was removed. As of September 2015, 26 out of 77 Queensland councils polluted some or all of their water supplies with industrial fluoride, with three having naturally heavily fluoride-contaminated water supplies, leaving 48 which had deliberately rejected forced-fluoridation, including the Mount Isa City Council, and including the Aboriginal Councils of Cherbourg, Doomadgee, Hope Vale, Lockhart River, Mapoon, Napranum, Palm Island, Pormpuraaw, Woorabinda, Wujal Wujal, and Yarrabah (Wordsworth 2015). Since then, four more Queensland councils have rejected the polluters in response to popular opposition, namely Gladstone Regional Council (Gellie 2016), Mackay Regional Council (O’Brien and Gordon 2016), Aurukun Shire Council (Miles 2016), which is another indigenous council covering “much of the traditional country of the Wik, Wik Way and Kugu people” (ASC 2017), and Hinchinbrook Shire Council (Rooney 2017). However, Brisbane and nearby areas in South East Queensland (SEQ) are still occupied. Of the 22 councils which currently force-fluoridate, 11 are part of the SEQ Water Grid, including Brisbane City Council. New South Wales is the only other Australian state in which mass fluoride poisoning decisions are made by local government (Varney 1986, 113). The citizens initiated referendum is not part of the Australian political system, so politicians decide when referenda are held, and on what issues. The decision to force-fluoridate the Australian Capital Territory in 1964 was not even made by Parliament, and was instead dictated by Doug Anthony, who was Minister for the Interior in the federal coalition government (Varney 1986, 18). Parliament was also not involved in the imposition of forced-fluoridation on South Australians in 1971 (Akers et al 2005, 36-37).
History suggests that if large-scale referenda had been held prior to the introduction of forced-fluoridation in Australia, the fluoridationists would have been mostly or entirely defeated. There have been 44 nation-wide referenda in Australia since 1901, only eight of which have been successful. In Michael Gannon’s home state of Western Australia all six of the referenda held since the end of World War II have been defeated. In New South Wales only three of the 12 referendum questions since the end of World War II have been defeated, but the last referendum was way back in 1995. In Queensland there have been three referenda since World War II, two of which failed. In South Australia there have been four referenda since World War II, three of which passed. The last referendum was in 1991. In Tasmania there was a referendum in 1968 which passed. The only other referendum since World War II was in 1981. It was a farcical exercise in which voters were asked where they wanted a new dam for the generation of hydroelectricity to be built, but not asked whether or not they wanted such a dam at all. A large proportion of voters wrote “no dams” on their ballot papers instead of voting. In Australia the crime of forced-fluoridation was first committed in Beaconsfield, Tasmania in 1953 (Varney 1986, 7). In the Australian Capital Territory there have been three referenda, with the first in 1978 and the last in 1995. Only one resulted in no change, although the 1995 vote was an “entrenchment referendum” which just made it more difficult to change the established electoral system in future. There has been one referendum in the Northern Territory, which was defeated. No doubt the anticipation of defeat is the reason for the absence of referenda on forced-fluoridation.
While working on this article I was sucked into the cesspit of political donations in Australia, information on which is available on the Australian Electoral Commission website. As with other countries, donations to political parties and candidates in Australia are essentially a form of legal bribery. The table above shows political donations from Wesfarmers to Australian political parties, rounded to the nearest AU$1000. Like Michael Gannon, Wesfarmers is a Western Australian based entity. It owns CSBP [PDF, 1.2 MB], which is a manufacturer of chemicals and fertilisers, including phosphate fertiliser. The hexafluorosilicic acid waste from its phosphate fertiliser operation in Kwinana, a suburb of Perth, is used to pollute Western Australian public water supplies to an “optimal” level (i.e. the highest level the polluters figure they can get away with). The figures in the table are just the tip of the iceberg, though. They don’t include money given by Wesfarmers to “associated entities” of the political parties, or money given by Wesfarmers under the names of its subsidiaries, which include Coles, Bunnings, Target, Kmart, and Officeworks. The following quotes are from a Transport Workers’ Union media release (TWU 2015).
A financial link of $5.3 million exists between Wesfarmers and the Liberal Party, in the form of dividends drawn down from Wesfarmers shares owned by the Cormack Foundation, an associated entity of the Liberal Party.
A further $1.7 million in political donations was given by Wesfarmers and Coles to the Liberal and National parties.
The figures are from the period 2000-2014, and do not appear to include Wesfarmers subsidiaries other than Coles. The TWU conveniently neglected to mention that the Australian Labor Party and associated entities have also been recipients of large sums from Wesfarmers and its subsidiaries. And there is another connection between Wesfarmers and Labor. “Two of Kevin Rudd’s once-upon-a-time advisers, Alister Jordan and Andrew Charlton, became executives at Wesfarmers. With former West Australian premier Alan Carpenter also on its payroll, Wesfarmers/Coles has been described as the pasture to which Rudd-era Labor types went out.” (Knox 2015)
There are additional ways in which corporations can influence politics. One is to influence the commercial media via advertising choices, since the commercial media are entirely dependent on advertising revenue for financial survival. That is especially pertinent to Wesfarmers because, as nearly every Australian knows, some of its subsidiaries are major retailers, with large advertising budgets. Another means of influence is to fund “research”. Colgate-Palmolive funds the work of professional fluoridationist academics, for example.
A thorough examination of the undemocratic nature of the Australian nation-state in relation to forced-fluoridation is beyond the scope of this article, but it is clear that political decisions in general, and forced-fluoridation in particular, are not necessarily determined by the common good, public opinion, or the public will. It should also be said that there are more than a few necessary conditions for real democracy, and that in a capitalist system even the citizens initiated referendum cannot be a genuinely democratic process. In a democratic culture forced mass medication would not even be contemplated – nevertheless, it is conceivable that a referendum in a democratic system could return a result in favour of forced-fluoridation. In such circumstances, the outcome would be undemocratic even if the process were democratic, because respect for human rights is a necessary condition for real democracy, and forced-fluoridation is an abuse of human rights and therefore inherently undemocratic. As Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights puts it, “In no case should a collective community agreement or the consent of a community leader or other authority substitute for an individual’s informed consent.” (UNESCO 2005)
On 18 September 2016, Gannon tweeted “Hippocratic medicine older than some of the world’s great religions, every political ideology, trend #ethics”. Perhaps he meant “Hypocritical medicine”, because remaining free of all intentional injustice is obviously alien to him. I think the tweet reveals what the medical industry means to Michael Gannon. For him it is one of the world’s great religions, and an opportunity to engage in politics. Fluoridationism is itself a religious belief which is propagated for political and economic reasons, so it is a perfect fit for him. On 21 August 2014 he said “[Parents not vaccinating their children is] a form of child abuse and people are doing something which takes away from the potential of their children and might harm their children’s friends and their wider family” (O’Leary 2014). The reality is that Michael Gannon, like the worst paedophile priests, is a shameless, mass child abuser himself. Violating children’s bodies by medicating them without their parents’ consent is an abuse of children’s human rights, and therefore forced-fluoridation is child abuse. In the same newspaper article he is quoted as saying “We might need to look at a vaccination caravan or bus to carpet-bomb these problem areas.” Perhaps he didn’t realise that carpet-bombing civilian areas is a crime against humanity, and that his use of such language was highly inappropriate at best. Maybe it was a Freudian slip, considering that forced-fluoridation is also a crime against humanity. On 2 August 2016 he described himself as “a political beast”, as quoted in Medical Observer (Fram 2016). The article continued: “The word beast sums up the animal-like aggression of Dr Gannon’s election campaign [for the national AMA presidency]. He was so critical of Brian Owler’s two-year term that some doctors suggested he was too close to the coalition and his friends within the government of the day.” The Sydney Morning Herald had reported on 29 May 2016 that Gannon had “vowed to repair the [AMA’s] relationship with government, which he says has been partly damaged by speaking out on asylum seekers” (Lee 2016). The article goes on to state that he “named assistant health minister Ken Wyatt and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann among his friends” and that “[Professor Brian Owler] intervened amid concerns a child known as Baby Asha could be forcibly removed from hospital and taken to detention” and “called for an end to the detention of child asylum seekers”. The detention of asylum seekers by Australian governments violates human rights, and violates both international and Australian law (Thom 2009; HRLC 2015; McCarthy et al 2016; RAC 2017). The detention of child asylum seekers is another example of government sanctioned child abuse. So according to Michael Gannon, speaking out about the abuse of child asylum seekers is not okay, and at the same time he is some kind of hero himself by repeatedly speaking out in favour of child abuse in the form of forced-fluoridation. To top it off, he has the gall to accuse others of being child abusers for not consuming the products his industry is selling. So much for ethics.