Scott Morrison says the resumption of public Anzac Day commemorations is a sign Australia is back on track after marches around the country were cancelled last year because of the pandemic.
“I’m pleased that Anzac Day is on,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
The prime minister brought the issue to a head on Tuesday when he heard the NSW RSL had restricted the Sydney march to just 500 veterans.
By Tuesday night NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard had issued an exemption to allow 5000 people to march and by Wednesday Police Minister David Elliot said that capacity could be doubled if there was demand.
“I’m very pleased that we’re seeing changes being made to facilitate that happening across Australia,” Mr Morrison said.
“This is a sacred day for Australia. Last year, we did it in the quietness and in the solemnity of our homes.
“This is a sign that Australia is back on track, the comeback is under way, Australians will come together in the way we always have.
“We will remember those who have gifted us our peace, our security, our sovereignty, and our freedom and I’m very pleased about the response that I saw yesterday from around the country,” he said.
Up to 10,000 veterans will now be able to march in Sydney on April 25 and no limit will be imposed on crowd numbers.
NSW Veterans Affairs Minister Geoff Lee said veterans would have to register to march to allow for contact tracing if required.
Police Minister David Elliot said he had “an iron-clad commitment from Brad Hazzard … if that reaches 5000 we will do another COVID plan and increase it to 10,000”.
Mr Lee said the concession had been made because “Anzac Day is one of the most important, if not the most important day of the calendar”.
“We want to make sure Anzac Day is as special as ever,” he said.
He also promised there would be no limit on how many people can watch the march.
“We encourage people to get out and support our serving veterans, our servicemen and women,” he said.
He urged veterans to book in early with pubs and clubs for their post-march reunions “so you get a place and get together with your mates and even play two-up”.
Outside of Sydney up to 3000 people will be allowed at Anzac Day ceremonies, with marchers required to register.
Veterans groups were unhappy with the original plan to limit marchers to 500 and accused the RSL of failing to argue their cause.
But Mr Lee declined to criticise the RSL.
“You can’t blame the RSL – I think they’re trying to do the right thing,” he said.
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.