The national cabinet has abandoned its consensus approach amid ongoing state border disagreements as the prime minister flags raising the cap on international arrivals.
Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Scott Morrison said the states and territories had acknowledged that they way the national cabinet worked had to evolve, with Australia “too diverse a place” to think all jurisdictions would always come to the same point on every issue.
He said Australia was at a point in the pandemic where all states and territories sat in a different position and came from different points of risk.
“It is not surprising that they all have different outlooks about what their challenges are right now, and what they might be in the months ahead,” he said.
“So, we’ve decided that this notion of 100 per cent, absolute consensus on any issue is not a way that the national cabinet can indeed work.”
Mr Morrison said it was also agreed in the meeting that Australia needed to boost inbound arrivals, particularly for Australian citizens seeking to come home.
At the moment, only 4,000 people are allowed into Australia each week, but about 23,000 Australians are trying to get home.
Mr Morrison said NSW had been doing “all the heavy lifting” and was at capacity, so national cabinet would work to see if they could get more flights arriving at other ports, whether they been in Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, the ACT or Tasmania.
“We want to get more Australians home. And we need to do that safely as well, and not compromise the quarantine arrangements we have here as well,” he said.
There was also an agreement to move to a ‘hotspot model’ to guide travel restrictions, with further discussion needed on how a hotspot is defined.
“The idea of ultimately moving beyond a situation where you have hard borders, but you move to a situation where you can have a workable hotspot concept, then that is something we are going to give it our best possible go to define and to make work,” Mr Morrison said.
“States, of course, will reserve ultimately the decisions they take, but all of those who have committed to this path have agreed that we should work hard to get that in its best possible form.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s international travel ban has been extended for three months.
Cruise ships and regular international flights will remain suspended under an extension to the human biosecurity emergency period.
Additional reporting by AAP.