PM eyes international workers and students

Scott Morrison is shifting his focus to bringing international students and workers into Australia.
Scott Morrison is shifting his focus to bringing international students and workers into Australia.

Scott Morrison is setting his sights on bringing international students and workers into Australia as more states ease coronavirus restrictions and manage outbreaks.

The prime minister is celebrating the reopening of retail and hospitality business across Melbourne after months of harsh lockdowns.

He is also toasting new polling that shows nearly three-quarters of West Australians want their premier to set a tentative date for reopening the state border.

Mr Morrison has reflected on publicly pushing to reopen the whole country by Christmas a few months ago.

"That wasn't popular everywhere. It was the right approach. That's been demonstrated by the progress and commitment being made to achieving that," he told coalition colleagues in Canberra on Tuesday.

His next priority is attracting university students and businesspeople here from overseas.

"There are some who want to stay where they are but we have to keep pressing hard, we have to keep leaning in," Mr Morrison told a joint partyroom meeting.

"Not necessarily making these decisions right now, but planning for the next steps and the next decisions that need to be made."

The prime minister praised NSW for showing calm resolve while testing and tracing coronavirus outbreaks, and encouraged other jurisdictions to adopt the same approach.

He wants families sitting around dining tables this Christmas to be able to talk about positive plans for their lives and businesses.

Mr Morrison is also urging Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to outline clear markers to reopen the state's economy and social life.

Victoria has recorded a second straight day of no coronavirus cases or deaths.

Treasury has calculated the Victorian lockdown is costing the economy $100 million and 1200 jobs a day.

"We look forward to Victoria continuing to make progress on the path to reopening and joining the rest of the country at steps two and three in the national plan," Mr Morrison said.

"It will be important for the Victorian government to provide even more clarity to Victorians in the coming days, and where restrictions do not have a health basis that they are removed quickly."

Restrictions on people visiting each other at home are also being relaxed from midnight on Tuesday.

Some retail and hospitality restrictions will be also eased.

But hotel operators are concerned strict crowd limits will prevent them from turning a profit.

The prime minister wants Victoria to lock in a timeline to implement stage two and three of a national plan to ease coronavirus restrictions.

Stage two involves returning to work in offices where suitable, a relaxation of occupancy limits at venues and gatherings, and free movement between areas with no community transmission.

Step three covers a broader return to the workplace, looser density limits for events and large venues, open interstate borders and international travel partnerships.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers is keen to avoid weighing in on reports of a fractured relationship between the Victorian government and business groups.

Dr Chalmers said there would be a time to get into the weeds of the political debate.

"Really right now is a time to acknowledge what Victorians have been able to achieve," he said.

Australian Associated Press