National cabinet to meet on virus response

Anthony Albanese will meet with state and territory leaders in response to increasing COVID-19 cases across the country.

The snap national cabinet meeting is expected to be held on Monday following pressure from state and territory leaders for a briefing on the latest medical advice.

Leaders could also challenge the prime minister on a decision to end pandemic leave payments and the concessional free rapid test program in the midst of the case surge.


Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Thursday said she was keen to discuss the pressure on the health care system from rising cases and hospitalisations with her counterparts.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet agreed with her, she said.

The $750 emergency isolation payment came to an end on July 1 while the free tests for concessional card holders will be provided until the end of the month.

The government insists it can not afford to continue with the schemes due to budget pressures.

Ms Palaszczuk said leaders need to discuss how people taking time off work while sick with new virus sub-variants could be supported.

Existing financial supports from state governments may not be enough for some people, she said.

“We are seeing some people being hit harder, so that means that they are off work for longer than the seven days (of isolation),” Ms Palaszczuk told the Seven Network on Thursday.

“I do think we need to look at those particular examples.”

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockcliff and NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns have called for an extension to pandemic leave payments.

Federal Labor MP Mike Freelander broke ranks on Thursday, urging the prime minister to extend the support measures.

“Anything we can do to slow the spread of the virus is very important,” Dr Freelander told the Australian newspaper.

“I’d like Anthony Albanese, when he gets back from the Pacific Island conference, to reconsider.”

But Health Minister Mark Butler said while he respected Dr Freelander’s expertise, the government had to make tough choices.

“It’s a tough decision which will impact the community but, frankly, whenever you make a decision like this there will be an impact on the community,” he told ABC’s 7.30.

“But equally there has to be an end to these very large emergency payments that are putting pressure on the sustainability of our budget.”

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said the medical advice to the government was to spend money where it is best targeted, such as antiviral treatments and vaccinations.

But opposition spokesman Stuart Robert said the government needed to adapt to the evolving situation of the pandemic.

“Frankly the Labor government has decided supporting low-paid people … is not something the government should be doing,” he told ABC News on Thursday.

“I think that’s appalling … The rules now set by government say you need to isolate, but if you’re a casual (worker) with no money, they’re sending them isolation-wise into poverty.”

More than 47,000 cases and 78 deaths were recorded in Australia on Thursday with 4512 people in hospital.

The national cabinet meeting will be the second of its kind since the Albanese government was elected in May.

© AAP 2022