The Victorian opposition has questioned the decision to cap the state’s Anzac Day dawn service at 1400 people, given the bumper footy crowd expected hours later.
Recently relaxed coronavirus restrictions mean 75,000 people will be able to attend the annual AFL match between Collingwood and Essendon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
But only 1400 can attend the Anzac Day dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance, while 5000 veterans and 500 support people will be able to take part in the march through central Melbourne.
This is despite the state going 46 days without a locally acquired case of coronavirus.
“That does not add up, it cannot be justified in any way, shape or form,” opposition veterans’ affairs spokesman Tim Bull told reporters on Tuesday.
He said the Queensland government had not imposed caps on Anzac Day services, while 10,000 people would be able to march in NSW.
“In Victoria, we’ve got a government that’s telling our veterans to stay home,” Mr Bull said.
It comes as fewer than 1000 people have registered to take part in the march.
RSL Victoria chief executive Jamie Twidale said there had been 900 registrations, of which 600 were Australian and New Zealand veterans.
“There’s a group that think while there’s limited spots, ‘Let somebody else have my spot’,” he told 3AW radio.
“There’s a group that have already made their own decision to commemorate locally.
“We know quite a few associations like to march together as a group and because of the way the march format is, that’s a bit difficult, so they’re making the decision to go local.”
He said a “small” number of people were protesting the need to register for contact tracing to take part in the event.
Outgoing Warragul RSL president Bill Westhead said a significant number of veterans had difficulty accessing the technology required to register, while others were nervous about interacting in the community post-pandemic.
But he said a majority were unhappy with how the Anzac Day events are being organised.
“The veteran community is angry at not being able to do at least the dawn service like every other state,” Mr Westhead said.
“They will turn up regardless if they’re registered or not and good luck to them and good on them because it’s their day. We missed out last year.”
Acting Premier James Merlino said it was important people registered to attend the events, given the majority of veterans participating are older Victorians and therefore more vulnerable to coronavirus.
“It’s an appropriate thing that people registered to march and yes, it’s been slightly a bit slower than what was anticipated, but we’re a couple of weeks away from Anzac Day and I’m sure that number is going to rise,” he said.
Some 400 local events are also being held across the state on Anzac Day, Mr Merlino added.
AAP understands the Victorian government hasn’t received an application from the Shrine of Remembrance to increase its cap for the dawn service.
The RSL is also yet to make an application to increase the number of attendees at the march.