Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon have hit out at the decision to cancel major Anzac Day services despite festivals including Mardi Gras going ahead with tens of thousands of revellers.
The New South Wales government on Tuesday allowed as many as 5,000 people to march together for Sydney’s Anzac Day march on April 25.
The move followed 36,000 revellers turning out for a ticketed and socially-distanced Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras parade at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.
But in South Australia organisers have axed three major Adelaide dawn services after revealing they cannot afford the cost of complying with Covid-19 rules.
The city recently allowed tens of thousands of people to gather for the annual Adelaide Fringe Festival, with crowds gathered drinking in tents.
The Today show co-hosts on Friday morning said the cancellation ‘defied belief’ and called for the state government and the RSL to come up with a work-around.
Neighbours stand outside their homes for a Covid-safe commemoration of Anzac Day in Brisbane last year. Organisers in Adelaide have axed three major dawn services in 2021 because of the cost of Covid-19 compliance
Pictured: A post by Sephamore and Port Adelaide RSL announcing the cancellation of its dawn service
The services in Brighton, Semaphore and Morphett Vale usually draw as many as 30,000 spectators.
But the RSL said it cannot safely operate the events because of how much it would cost to install barriers to control crowd numbers.
‘As far as I’m concerned it’s the most important day on the Australian calendar,’ Stefanovic said.
‘They had the Adelaide Fringe Festival for goodness sake, we can’t have Dawn Services, ceremonies, marches in Adelaide honouring our diggers. It defies belief.’
Langdon meanwhile said the axing of the service was ‘outrageous’.
‘They can’t come up with a way for it to be Covid-safe and funds are an issue,’ she added. ‘Between the RSL and the state government they need to fix that.’
RSL state president Cheryl Cates said the organisation was ‘trying to do the right thing for our veterans’ but didn’t want to spark an outbreak of the virus.
Today show co-host Karl Stefanovic said the decision not to go ahead with the services because of financial reasons ‘defied belief’
The development comes after 36,000 revellers attended the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 6
‘We were quite devastated to have to make the final decision,’ Semaphore and Port Adelaide RSL club president Derek Meadows told The Adelaide Advertiser.
‘We’re just not satisfied that we could police the numbers.’
The criticism comes after the Scott Morrison said it was only right Anzac Day services went ahead when thousands could protest in the street and party at Mardi Gras on Saturday, March 6.
The numbers cap for Sydney’s Anzac Day march on April 25 was on Tuesday bumped from 500 to 5000 people, with up to 10,000 spectators
‘I respect ultimately these are calls that have got to be made by state governments but I want Anzac Day on,’ Morrison told reporters on Tuesday, as NSW recorded its 51st straight day without a locally acquired case.
‘If people can party and if people can protest then we can remember as a nation and honour our veterans on Anzac Day.
‘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 1,000 participants, RSL NSW said on Tuesday.
It then pledged in a media release to apply for an unticketed 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.
‘I respect ultimately these are calls that have got to be made by state governments but I want Anzac Day on,’ PM Scott Morrison said on Tuesday
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 3,000 people can attend sit-down events in NSW as long as Covid-safe practices are followed.