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New cap for incoming travellers on national agenda

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The cap on international travellers coming into Australia looks set to be slashed when national cabinet meets today, as the country deals with widespread outbreaks of the delta strain of COVID-19.

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Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia have spent the week calling for a drastic cut to the weekly cap.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews wants to reduce the returned traveller cap by between 50 and 80 per cent for the next three to four months.

“It won’t be easy to lock some people out but locking some people out is much better than locking everybody down,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

The federal government has so far pushed back against the proposal.

But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham struck a markedly different tone ahead of the national cabinet meeting on Friday.

“We’ve shown a willingness to adjust based on changed risk profiles and we’ll always look at that,” he said.

Senator Birmingham cited the India travel ban and limits imposed at the start of the pandemic as examples of responsive restrictions.

Labor premiers also argue too many people are being granted exemptions to leave the country and come home again, putting the rest of the country at risk.

More than 51,000 outbound travel exemptions have been approved since the start of this year.

But Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram points out 52,000 applications have been refused.

A federal-state spat over hotel quarantine arrangements will also spill into the national cabinet meeting.

Hotel quarantine breaches have been responsible for most of the outbreaks across Australia, with 26  leaks since the start of the pandemic, including six in June.

The federal government has offered to fund dedicated quarantine facilities in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria, although South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has ruled out taking up that option as it would require the state to increase its intake of repatriated Australians from overseas.

-with AAP

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