Coronavirus sparks new era for governments

The prime minister wants the national cabinet to focus on jobs, investment and economic growth.
The prime minister wants the national cabinet to focus on jobs, investment and economic growth.

A $131 billion hospital deal has ushered in a new era of federal-state relations with the coronavirus-inspired national cabinet to become permanent.

Under the agreement, the federal government has agreed to provide an extra $31.4 billion over five years to states and territories for public hospitals and immunotherapy treatments.

The total federal spend will be $131.4 billion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the deal alongside the decision to scrap the long-running Council of Australian Governments in favour of national cabinet.

"Having the groups operate like a fair-dinkum cabinet has been really important," he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

Mr Morrison chairs the national cabinet, which has seen state and territory leaders meet regularly to thrash out a pandemic response.

Treasurers will now have responsibility for national partnership agreements on services - like hospitals - which carve up billions.

Friday's national cabinet examined eased restrictions as leaders continue to balance health concerns and the economic crisis.

"We're on track and we're making progress far sooner than we could have ever imagined several months ago," Mr Morrison said.

Job creation is expected to be a key agenda item in fortnightly meetings during the pandemic.

Border closures have been contentious within the national cabinet with some states staring down federal pressure to lift travel bans.

Mr Morrison said he remained optimistic interstate travel would restart nationally by July.

He downplayed divisions between governments after premiers engaged in a war of words over the issue.

"We don't agree on everything. No one does," he said.

"In the vast majority of cases the states and territories have worked very well with the Commonwealth on these issues."

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said Queensland should reconsider its border closures, which could last until September, as infections in Victoria and NSW fall.

Mr Morrison said he would support states going it alone on restarting travel to New Zealand if others kept borders shut.

The prime minister is in regular talks with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern about a trans-Tasman travel bubble.

"We are progressing extremely well," Mr Morrison said.

"I don't intend for the jobs that will be created, particularly in our aviation sector, to be held up on basis of decisions that premiers may yet still wish to make."

NSW is preparing to ease restrictions on religious services, funerals and weddings from Monday, bringing the rules closer to pubs and restaurants.

Victoria has announced tough measures to stop bosses forcing workers back to the office, with employees told they must work from home if possible.

WA will raise the limit on gatherings to 100 people from next Saturday, with 300 to be allowed in places that have divided spaces.

Queensland authorities are continuing to investigate the mysterious case of Australia's youngest coronavirus victim, Nathan Turner, who died aged 30 in the small mining town of Blackwater.

Australia's coronavirus death toll is 103, with fewer than 500 active cases remaining from more than 7150 infections.

Australian Associated Press