(Australian Associated Press)
The cap on Sydney’s Anzac Day march has been bumped from 500 to 5000, with up to 10,000 spectators, after Scott Morrison said he wants the commemoration to return to normal.
RSL NSW had planned for a 500-person march in 2021 after traditional services and marches had to be cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
But the NSW government moved swiftly on Tuesday to allow for a bigger parade after the prime minister weighed in.
“I respect ultimately these are calls that have got to be made by state governments but I want Anzac Day on,” he told reporters on Tuesday, as NSW recorded its 51st straight day without a locally acquired case.
He was speaking just days after the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras at the Sydney Cricket Ground was allowed 36,000 revellers at the ticketed and socially distanced event.
The parade was preceded by a protest of about 600 people on Oxford Street after activist group Pride in Protest was granted an 11th-hour exemption from COVID-19 restrictions.
“If people can party and if people can protest then we can remember as a nation and honour our veterans on Anzac Day,” Mr Morrison said.
“And I would like to see that done as fully and as safely as possible and I think that is not beyond our wits to achieve that.”
NSW Health had already suggested the march cap would be lifted to 1000 participants, RSL NSW said on Tuesday.
It then pledged in a media release to apply for an un-ticketed march for an “unlimited number of participants and spectators”.
By Tuesday evening NSW Health had agreed to a march with 5000 participants, each able to invite two spectators.
Last year’s Anzac Day marches were cancelled across the nation and remembrance services were restricted to official dignitaries, with people urged to stand on their driveways at dawn with a torch instead.
The 500-person march had looked like becoming a flop, with the RSL receiving fewer than 200 registrations to a ballot designed to allocate the places.
Veterans groups had said they were unhappy with the plans and accused RSL of failing to argue their cause.
Up to 3000 people can attend sit-down events in NSW as long as COVID-safe practices are followed.