We’ve come too far to stop now. That is Dave Reinhard’s view now that the Napthine Government has allowed the Code Red campaign to bleed into the state election race.
“We have to campaign against the government now. They have failed to fix this for four years and for more than two years they haven’t settled our pay dispute."
Dave, pictured at left above, with fellow volunteer campaigners, firey Dean Szabo, and paramedic Jacinta Ditchburn, is among the most committed of Code Red campaigners. He has given up hours of his own time to set up stalls in marginal electorates around south east Melbourne to publicise the cause. And overwhelmingly, as other paramedics know, Dave finds that the public is with us.
However it looks now with pollilng just days away, the campaign did not start as a party political one, says Dave.
“Six months ago we started this in earnest,” said Dave, a 31-year paramedic who last weekend was running an information stand opposite Parkdale Railway Station. “Our intention was to pressure the Liberal Government to fix the ambulance crisis, but that hasn’t worked. They’ve let it run on.
"We have to campaign against the government now. They have failed to fix this for four years and for more than two years they haven't settled our pay dispute. If they got back in we could face more years of stalling.
“It’s enormously frustrating, in a professional sense, for paramedics that we’re unable to reach the target response times for ambulance emergencies.
“The target itself is a bad one. We should be aiming at eight to 10 minute response times, not 15 minutes, but we can’t even reach that bad target.”
Ambulance Victoria figures show that one in four emergency calls fails to achieve the 15-minute response time benchmark.
Most gratifying about campaigning publicly is seeing the understanding of the public itself. Even declared Liberal voters are signing the petitions that Dave gathers.
“We get some people who are very enthusiastic supporters and will come up without us approaching them and they’ll be queuing up wanting to sign. People generally are very supportive.
“This is not party political really. If Labor was in power and doing what the Libs are doing, we would target them just as strongly, but it has to become political because the politicians are the ones who can fix it.”
Dave said paramedics had to take up every opportunity to educate the public as polling day looms. As well as the Parkdale station stall, and other paramedics campaigned at short notice on Friday night when they heard of a Bentleigh School holding a night market.
“We knew there’d be a lot of people there,” Dave said. “It was an opportunity we had to take.”