- National cabinet will meet today, with border closures, a nationally agreed upon definition of a hotspot, and an agricultural code which will see seasonal workers able to travel across state lines all on the agenda.
- Victoria has recorded 81 new coronavirus cases on Friday. The state’s death toll increased by 59, including 50 aged care deaths which occurred in July and August, pushing the national toll to 737.
- There were eight new cases in NSW on Friday, all with known sources. After aged care visits in the Sydney area were restricted, an announcement easing the rules before Father’s Day is expected to be announced today.
- Queensland has announced a border bubble including the Moree region in northern NSW. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would want 28 days of no community transmission before reopening her border to the rest of the state.
- There have now been 26.1 million coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. The global death toll has passed 864,000.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that her state currently had no areas which should be described as hotspots, and that people should be free to visit other parts of Australia.
“If you look at the specific definition which national cabinet is considering, at this point in time, there wouldn’t be anywhere in NSW as of today that would be defined as a formal hot spot.”
She said south-west and western Sydney remained as areas of concern, but that she was happy with the way the state was progressing.
“There shouldn’t be an excuse for any state to have a border that isn’t open with NSW,” she said.
“If the trends continue the way they are, I don’t think any state border should exist by Christmas – unless Victoria flares up again, which I hope it won’t.”
The Premier said she’d heard “awful stories” about grandparents not having met their grandchildren yet, and families being separated – but that she was hopeful about the future.
“Even though some states are not as comfortable as others, I’m hopeful that by Christmas, Australia will be a different place.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she understood the angst of everyone who can’t see their loved ones on Father’s Day, but that it was not appropriate for her to go against the health advice, which today deemed it too unsafe to re-open aged care homes this weekend.
“I’m as disappointed as anybody, but I can’t overturn that health advice,” she said.
“I feel horrible about that.”
Ms Berejikilian said the health concerns around the seeding potential of the CBD cluster spreading around the state, the supported the “conservative approach” of NSW Health in this case.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Queensland will continue to use its “28 days of no community transmission” rule when deciding whether a region is a hotspot, until the nationally agreed upon definition comes into force in December.
“The definition that we provided is obviously the one that I think is appropriate,” Mr Morrison said when asked about Queensland’s hard borders.
The Prime Minister said Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly would work with the states and territories for greater precision around the definition.
Asked if it was medically sensible for Queensland’s hard border to be in place, particularly in relation to regional NSW, Professor Kelly declined to comment, instead saying the hotspot definition would provide greater transparency.
“We have to start off a hot spot definition so that is what we are working on so that we can get that absolute clarity about these matters,” he said.
“At this point, Queensland has made the decision about how they look at risk in terms of people coming across the border and that is their decision to make.”
This is Mary Ward signing off the blog. Matt Bungard will continue our live coverage through to the evening.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that today’s national cabinet had been constructive, but that she would like the Queensland Premier to “carefully consider” the impacts of border restrictions in both states.
“I’m particularly concerned about construction jobs, infrastructure jobs, in addition to tourism jobs,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian said that people with medical issues, or those with issues on compassionate grounds or simply people who needed to work, needed to be given more chance to cross the border.
She encouraged her counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk to join in on meetings supporting the movement of agricultural workers, which were currently being discussed by the South Australian, Victorian, NSW and commonwealth governments.
“I would like to see the Queensland premier join those discussions as well.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the federal government has not been “prescriptive” with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews about how he will reopen his state, noting the Victorian roadmap to be announced on Sunday and national cabinet’s plan are “two very separate tasks”.
“We have engaged with him and the national coordinating mechanism has provided a lot of information and support, and potential ways that can be done, that is true … But, ultimately, what the Premier does in Victoria will be a matter for him,” Mr Morrison said.
The Prime Minister said he welcomed the Andrews government’s engagement with industry. He said he believed the Victorian reopening needed to be cautious.
“The number of cases is still too high and one of the things I know the Premier is keen to avoid – and I believe Victorians, I think, would have some sympathy with this – is they don’t want [the virus to] … re-emerge and relapse,” he added.
“They would want to be confident that the way out was sustainable and built up the strength and the capabilities so they would never have to go back to this.”
Western Australia will go its own way on pandemic policy, refusing to join an agreement between the nation’s other states and territories to open up their borders by December.
The rest of the country will work towards a “hotspot model” to combat COVID-19 while WA will keep its border closed to the rest of the nation.
After a national cabinet meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at times it felt like “Australia could break apart”.
“Australia is something we can never take for granted. I’m talking about us, I’m talking about our federation, I’m talking about us a nation,” he said.
“The year of the COVID pandemic and the COVID recession has tested us like we’ve never been tested in many generations.”
Mr Morrison said WA had different circumstances to the rest of the nation, which is why the state had decided it would not join the aspiration to move to a nationally consistent approach to borders by December.
“They will continue to work with us. They have got their path set and we accept that,” he said.
“The door always remains open. They are always able to join us at a subsequent time.
“In the absence of a vaccine we may have to live this way for years.”
Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has detailed some of the details of the hotspot definition agreement, which has been signed up to by every state bar Western Australia.
The group of seven states and territories have an in-principle agreement to a uniform definition of a hotspot. However, Western Australia was in agreement with the rest of the country in one aspect.
“I can report from the AHPPC yesterday – eight out of eight jurisdictions agreed that hotspots are to be used by the Commonwealth in relation to what we may offer in support to various states that are experiencing hotspots,” Professor Kelly said.
“That was agreed by all of the chief health officers and myself. But, of course, hotspots also guide what happens locally in states, and that’s absolutely their prerogative to work with that.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the hotspot definition would be in use by Christmas, with the precise details to be decided.
Asked about Western Australia’s decision to not agree, the Prime Minister said: “We all seek, in each and every day, to try and get as many people going in the same direction as possible. And what we have achieved, I think, today is a commonsense set of rules as to how we can take the federation forward.”
He declined to answer how long he thought Premier Mark McGowan could keep his borders closed.
Five of the eight states and territories agreed to the agricultural code put by the nation’s agriculture ministers to today’s national cabinet, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.
“Those who didn’t join were Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, but they will look on, again, to see how that process works,” Mr Morrison said, noting the arrangement of free movement of agricultural workers and machinery would begin in NSW, South Australia and Victoria immediately.
On international matters, the Prime Minister said there was work being done to increase international flights to airports such as Hobart, Darwin, Adelaide and Canberra to possibly increase the number of people who can return home to Australia without overloading Sydney.
He added that he spoke to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this morning and said Australia’s hotspot definition would extend to New Zealand.
“So, that means, when we’re in a position to do so, and when the Acting Chief Medical Officer has come to a set of arrangements with New Zealand, then we would be able to have New Zealanders come to Australia,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean Australians can go to New Zealand. That’s a matter for Prime Minister Ardern.
“But if there’s no COVID in Christchurch, and there’s no COVID in Queensland, then there’s no reason [they] can’t come to Sydney.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, after today’s national cabinet, seven of eight states and territories have agreed to an update of the roadmap to recovery initially released in May, including a national definition of a hotspot and removal of hard borders.
“We agreed today with the objective that was set out in the May plan to be at the end of that step three process, which we will seek to ensure is even better defined,” Mr Morrison said.
“We said before we wanted to get there in July and the virus prevented us from achieving that.
“Seven out of eight states and territories want us to get back to that position in December of this year and I thank them for that commitment.”
The state which did not agree to the roadmap was Western Australia.
The Prime Minister said, moreso than focusing on issues like hospitality venue capacity, the new roadmap would focus on testing regimes, data sharing and interstate borders.
The new road map will also include bilateral and multilateral agreements between the states, said Mr Morrison, such as the current border arrangement between NSW and Victoria.
Clarification: We initially wrote that Queensland may be the state that did not agree to the coronavirus hotspot model to open its hard border by December. This was incorrect. It was Western Australia.