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National cabinet to decide on hotel quarantine, cuts to flights

The move prepares the ground for a debate on stronger measures across all states and territories in the wake of quarantine breaches at Melbourne hotels that led to dozens of coronavirus infections.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews launched a judicial inquiry last week into the conduct of security guards and the state quarantine program, but the AHPPC review will consider whether safeguards are adequate across all states and territories.

While the NSW quarantine program is being helped by 150 Australian Defence Force personnel, including 30 who are stationed at hotels, other states and territories have not sought the same support.

Victorian officials asked for ADF help on June 24 but rescinded the request soon afterwards, choosing instead to use Corrections Victoria staff to police the system.

Mr Morrison signalled on Wednesday that he would propose a curb on the overall number of international arrivals to ease pressure on the quarantine system when coronavirus cases were climbing.

More than 72,000 international passengers arrived in Australia in the month to July 7, according to federal government data, with more than half of them landing in NSW.

The federal tally showed 39,394 arrived in NSW, 15,374 in Victoria, 10,054 in Queensland, 5,377 in Western Australia, 962 in the Northern Territory, 683 in South Australia and 307 in Canberra.

Mr Andrews said he had written to Mr Morrison to seek an extension to the move announced last Friday to suspend international arrivals to Victoria for two weeks.

The Prime Minister said the breakout in Victoria could happen in other states if Australians dropped their guard, saying “we are all Melburnians now” in the fight against COVID-19.

Passengers are screened exiting a plane at Sydney Airport.

Passengers are screened exiting a plane at Sydney Airport.Credit:Steven Siewert

Mr Morrison said NSW had done the “heavy lifting” on the quarantine at a significant cost and the Victorian ban on international flights had led to travellers switching to other state capitals.

“I’ll be taking a proposal to national cabinet to slow that down as of this Friday,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison signalled he did not want to cut the numbers to benefit one state at the cost of another, even though Western Australian premier Mark McGowan has raised the idea of a cap on arrivals.

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“The issue is not redistributing the load from Western Australia to other states,” Mr Morrison said.

“Western Australia has been taking about a quarter of what New South Wales has. So I don’t think there’s a strong case that Western Australia should carry any lesser load than it has been up until this time.

“The issue is what the overall level of returning Australians are, and that’s why I’ll be bringing a proposal on Friday to reduce that load which means that’s a lesser load for everybody.”

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