Fact check – David Penberthy’s Opinion Piece

March 10, 2023 / Comments Off on Fact check – David Penberthy’s Opinion Piece

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In a recent opinion piece, David Penberthy used his platform as an Advertiser columnist, seemingly in an attempt to denigrate the Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) – whilst duplicitously claiming he was “not having a go at ambos”. What a breathtakingly naïve notion. The AEA is the members – over 98% of SA’s ambos –  and the members are the AEA.

He makes the observation that the AEA has not been actively campaigning on the topic of ramping since the election, asking whether we were “more interested in helping fix the ramping crisis or simply helping Malinauskas and the Labor Party”. Given he has direct access to myself as AEA Secretary, as he did Phil Palmer, it begs the question why he didn’t ask this of the very person best-placed to answer – the elected voice of our ambos. Or would such a conversation not have served his purpose? Was he actually not interested in an answer at all, and just using his privileged position on his soapbox with his megaphone.

I take this opportunity to share with the public what we would have shared with him, had he bothered to ask:

As a result of our campaigning over many years, and our productive working relationship with the Labor Party prior to the election, the AEA secured a commitment of over $250 million for the SA Ambulance Service in order to return it a position where it can safely serve the SA Community once again. True to their word the Labor Government are, in our view, following through with tangible changes and investment to address the core issues within our Health system that contribute to ramping and poor ambulance response times. Not least of which being a taskforce of frontline clinicians across the Health sector, collectively problem solving with this sole purpose in mind. It will take time to recruit all 350 Ambos, 300 Nurses, 100 Doctors, and open more than 550 beds. The AEA is currently content that the Government is working hard to deliver all of its commitments – including to fix the ramping crisis.

The ferocity of our campaign was in direct response to a Government that denied the truth. The current Government have done what the previous refused to do – acknowledge the truth, the extent of the crisis within our Health system, and commit to fixing it.

We are a union which has advocated with vigour, for over three decades, for an ambulance service which can safely service the SA Community and its members – the AEA is proud of this reputation, and of the safety and clinical improvements to ambulance delivery it has secured for all South Australians.

Penberthy called the AEA’s decision to decline the Liberal Party’s request for a meeting ‘extraordinary’. Is there really anything ‘extraordinary’ in not wanting to meet with the Party that broke its promise? A Party that was indifferent to our members’ cries for help, and did nothing but apologise to the families whose loved ones died waiting for an ambulance? How could anyone trust such a Party.

The AEA will continue advocating in the same way we always have, for what is needed to keep the State’s ambulance service safe and fit for purpose for the SA community, no matter who is at the helm of government – our members will settle for nothing less.

Leah Watkins
AEA General Secretary