As a result the national cabinet will convene next week instead. The repatriation deal does not need the approval of national cabinet.
Mr Morrison on Thursday said “there have been extensive preparations undertaken on [the repatriation] matter and we’re in the final stages of concluding those arrangements”.
“We’ve been working now for some months as we’ve been getting more and more Australians home, particularly those in vulnerable situations.”
Qantas will run at least some of the repatriation flights, although tickets won’t go on sale until all the details have been finalised, a source involved in the negotiations said.
The first flights are expected to depart from London and India, likely Delhi, and will prioritise the most vulnerable people in terms of health and their financial situation.
There are more than 29,000 Australians overseas who have registered with DFAT as wanting to come home, the department’s latest figures show.
They have been stymied by the lack of commercial flights, high ticket prices and limited caps on the number of passengers allowed to arrive into Australia each week.
Mr Morrison says a quarter of the 4000 vulnerable stranded people he identified some weeks ago have now returned to Australia.
On Tuesday, he said the government was “moving heaven and earth” to bring people back.
The Manigurr-ma mining camp in Howard Springs was used as a quarantine centre for Australians evacuated from China in February. It has since housed Pacific fruit pickers coming to Australia under a special seasonal worker scheme, as well as interstate travellers from coronavirus hotspots. Reviewers on Google have praised the facility as “a great place to spend 14 days quarantine” and mentioned people are allowed to exercise in fresh air.
The staged increase in the arrival cap and hotel quarantine places agreed at the last national cabinet meeting in September reached its full 5600 places this week.
On Friday, Australia will become a safe travel zone for New Zealanders, meaning travellers can come to Australia from NZ without needing to quarantine.
Mr Morrison used that development to again pressure the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk – who is in the middle of an election campaign – to reopen the state’s border to NSW residents.
“As of tomorrow, Kiwis will be having holidays in NSW. They’ll be having holidays in the ACT and they’ll be having holidays in the Northern Territory,” he said.
“And the only reason the Kiwis aren’t coming to North Queensland is the Queensland government insists on a two week quarantine for visitors.”
He’s also cited the economic impact, saying Queensland has recovered 44 per cent of the jobs lost since the start of the pandemic while NSW and South Australia have recovered 70 per cent.
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Katina Curtis is a political reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra.