The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Friday September 4.

All states and territories except WA agree to open borders by Christmas. 

All states and territories except Western Australia will aim to lift their hard border closures by Christmas.

Most jurisdictions have also signed onto an agricultural code to allow seasonal workers to cross state lines.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is changing the rules governing national cabinet after failing to secure consensus on easing restrictions.

"Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station," he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

"But it is important the bus leaves the station, and we all agree on that."

Border closures dominated Morrison's fortnightly meeting with premiers and chief ministers.

All states and territories except WA agreed to reach the third and final stage of restriction relief by the end of December.

WA Premier Mark McGowan says it could be some time before the borders open.

"Unlike the rest of the country, WA is not currently in a recession," he said.

"So we won't be prematurely reopening our borders. If we went too soon it could be deadly, and there would be economic devastation."

He said his state was propping up the national economy.

"Where do they think their money comes from? It comes out of WA. So for them to demand that we bring down our borders is not in their interests."

Premiers and chief ministers - except for WA - also endorsed the idea of defining coronavirus hotspots.


But they rejected a complex definition provided by the nation's acting chief medical officer.

That definition says the starting point for a hotspot is 10 locally acquired cases a day over three consecutive days in metropolitan areas, and three locally acquired cases daily over the same period in regional Australia.

"This will take some time to get that right," Morrison said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said a consistent national approach to defining a hotspot "would give states both courage and the imprimatur to bring down their borders".

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said there was no alternative but to ease his state out of restrictions "in a safe and steady way".

"The notion of opening up quickly... will not be a lasting thing that we do. It will be five minutes of sunshine and we will be back into these sorts of restrictions again."

The PM also asked premier and chief ministers to endorse a national agricultural code to allow seasonal workers to travel over state lines.

Five out of eight jurisdictions signed up, but Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania declined.

The national cabinet also agreed to relax the weekly limit on stranded Australians returning home from overseas.

There are more than 23,000 Australians abroad who want to return, a third of whom are in India.

The federal government has imposed a weekly cap of 4000 international passengers to ease the burden on state hotel quarantine systems.


Premiers and chief ministers will look to ease the burden on NSW, which is doing most of the heavy lifting.

Australia's coronavirus death toll has passed 700 after Victoria announced 59 new deaths.

There have now been 737 deaths from coronavirus across the country.

Victoria records 81 new coronavirus cases and 59 further deaths.

Victoria has recorded 59 further COVID-19 related deaths, although only nine of the deaths are new.

The number - which is the highest in a single day since the pandemic began - included 50 people in aged care who died in July and August.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said a change in reporting meant state and federal governments and aged care sector were working "together to reconcile data and update Victorian reporting related to deaths" caused the delay, the ABC reported.


There was another spike in the death toll on Monday when the state recorded 41 new deaths, including 22 people who died before August 27.

Victoria's death toll is now at 650, with the national toll 737.

International travel ban extended for three months.

Australia will extend its ban on overseas travel and restrictions on cruise ships entering the country for another three months.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the measures will now stay in place until December 17 this year.

"The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, has advised that the international and domestic COVID-19 situation continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk," he said.

"The extension of the emergency period is an appropriate response to that risk."

For the first time since Federation in 1901, Australia is a series of states and territories separated by individual border controls. Post continues after podcast.


The travel ban means Australian citizens and permanent residents have not been able to leave the country by air or sea since March 25, unless they're a resident of another country, an offshore freight, boat, aircraft or essential worker or government official.

But the tight border closures and quarantine restrictions upon entry have created a backlog of Australians stranded overseas.

Labor home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally used a speech to parliament on Thursday night to lambast Scott Morrison over the 23,000 Australians seeking to get home amid the pandemic.

"We learnt this week from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that number has jumped by more than 20 per cent in the past fortnight - 3450 of those stranded Aussies are considered medically or financially vulnerable," she said.

"And what has the Morrison government done for these stranded Aussies? Nothing."

Eight weeks ago the government imposed a cap on incoming passengers.

A website has been set up to tell the stories of stranded Aussies.

State border closures to dominate National Cabinet today.

Coronavirus-sparked border closures, an agriculture code and forthcoming extreme weather risks will be top of mind for Australia's leaders at a meeting on Friday.

National cabinet will today discuss a definition for COVID-19 hotspots, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants clarity on so there's an understanding on when states can close their borders.


Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham wants states to rethink their current approach, saying border closures could cost tourism operators $55 billion this year.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described Queensland's benchmark of 28 days of no community transmission in NSW before removing its border controls as "a pretty tall order".

"We've demonstrated for two months nearly that you can actually maintain a good control of the virus and keep your economy going," she said.

"I hope other states have the confidence to take their borders down and do the same."

But Queensland says it's important for states to have control of their own outbreaks.

The state has faced criticism for its decision to allow 400 AFL staff, executives and families to quarantine in a Gold Coast golf club hired out by the league.


National cabinet will also receive an economic update today, after Australia's first recession in 30 years was confirmed this week.

The economy has shrunk two quarters in a row, amounting to a technical recession.

The June quarter contraction of seven per cent is the worst figure since records began.

Victoria edges closer to virus 'roadmap'.

Victoria is inching closer to a much-anticipated "roadmap" out of lockdown despite an uptick in new COVID-19 cases creating a potential speed bump.

Premier Daniel Andrews will announce separate pathways for how and when Melbourne and regional Victoria will come out of respective stage four and three lockdowns on Sunday.

There is no confirmation yet that any restrictions will be eased on September 13, and Mr Andrews isn't deviating from his pre-set timeline for unveiling the state government's strategy.

"The time to announce what things look like in the weeks and months ahead is not today," he told reporters on Thursday.

Daniel Andrews 


Potentially complicating matters is new cases rising to 113 on Thursday - the first time since Sunday that the daily tally has been above 100.

But testing numbers surged back over 17,000 on Thursday for the first time since last Saturday in a pleasing statistic for authorities.

Mr Andrews reiterated the "roadmap" could not be released as it wasn't finished yet and needed contemporary data from the next few days.

"There is an enormous amount of modelling going on at the moment," he said.


"Literally thousands of scenarios are run through various computers and processes, and that does take some time."

The premier also dismissed a leaked document, indicating a Melbourne's 8pm-5am curfew could be extended by a further fortnight, as out of date.

Victoria recorded 15 more deaths, but nine of them occurred in aged care prior to the past 24 hours.

The latest deaths took the state toll to 591 and the national figure to 678.

Fears for two Aussies on capsized ship after typhoon.

There are grave fears for two Australians who were on board a livestock ship that has capsized in stormy weather in the East China Sea.

The pair, understood to be a vet and a stockhandler, were among 43 crew on board the Jordanian vessel Gulf Livestock 1 which was en route to China from New Zealand.

Lukas Orda, who previously worked at Gold Coast Equine Clinic and studied at James Cook University in Townsville, has been identified as the vet in several media reports.

Missing Australian Lukas Orda. Image: Nine. 


Only one seaman, a Filipino, has so far been rescued. The Department of Foreign and Affairs is assisting the families of the Australians.

"The Australian government is providing consular assistance to the families of two Australian crew members on board a cargo vessel reported missing in Japanese waters," DFAT said on Thursday.

"Owing to our privacy obligations we are unable to provide further comment."


The ship sent a distress call from west of Amami Oshima island in southwestern Japan on Wednesday as the region experienced strong winds, heavy seas and drenching rains from Typhoon Maysak as it headed towards the Korean peninsula.

The shipment is believed to have been put together by Australasian Global Exports, a Melbourne-based exporter which operates across Australia and New Zealand. It's understood the company has been contacting the families of the Australians.

UK opposition criticise Tony Abbott for 'homophobia and misogyny'.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has defended a plan to hand a senior trade role to former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott despite concerns about his attitude towards women and homosexuality.

Mr Abbott is in talks to become joint president of the relaunched Board of Trade but critics have raised numerous concerns, including his belief that coronavirus restrictions should be lifted.

He has previously said that he feels "a bit threatened" by homosexuality, opposed same-sex marriage, and was accused of misogyny by fellow former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard in a now infamous speech.


On Sky News Mr Hancock, wearing an NHS badge with the LGBTQ rainbow flag on it, was pressed over the suitability of Mr Abbott, who led Australia from 2013 until he was ousted by his own party in 2015.

"I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love, whoever that is," he said.

"But we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and the former prime minister of Australia has a huge amount of experience."

Sky's Kay Burley said "He's a homophobe and he's a misogynist", to which Mr Hancock replied: "He's also an expert in trade."


International trade minister Greg Hands said no appointments had been confirmed but he welcomed Mr Abbott in his willingness to "help this country out".

Opposition MPs were highly critical of the defence, with shadow minister Peter Kyle saying ministers "don't even pretend not to embrace bigots anymore".

Labour MP Marie Rimmer added: "Surely there's trade experts who aren't homophobic and misogynists? Britain deserves better than Tony Abbott representing us on the world stage."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Abbott's coronavirus views were "deeply offensive and wrong" and he was not fit to be a trade envoy.

"But Tony Abbott, before these comments, is a misogynist, he's a sexist, he's a climate change denier," she told Sky News.

"Trade, in many respects, should reflect our values - there should be ethics attached to any country's trading profile."

Biden meets family of Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back by police.

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has begun a visit to the key state of Wisconsin by meeting with the family of Jacob Blake, the black man whose shooting by a white police officer sparked days of at times violent protests in the city of Kenosha.

Biden spent more than an hour in private with Blake's father, Jacob Blake Sr, his siblings, and one of his lawyers, B'Ivory LaMarr.


Blake's mother Julia Jackson and another lawyer, Ben Crump, joined by phone.

Blake remains hospitalised after being shot seven times in the back as authorities tried to arrest him.

The trip, Biden's first to Wisconsin during the general election campaign, is intended to draw sharp contrasts with US President Donald Trump.

Biden is seeking to portray himself as a unifying figure, able to lead the country through a reckoning with systemic racism along with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

Trump didn't meet with the Blake family when he visited Kenosha earlier this week.

Around the world.

- Robert Pattinson has tested positive for COVID-19, Vanity Fair reported, prompting The Batman to suspend filming in the United Kingdom.

- Donald Trump has been criticised for suggesting people in North Carolina test the security of their election systems by voting twice – which is illegal: "Let them send [mail ballots] in and let them go vote, and if their system's as good as they say it is, then obviously they won't be able to vote," the President said. "If it isn't tabulated, they'll be able to vote."

- Thailand has reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus case in 100 days, after a prison inmate arrested late last month tested positive.

-With AAP.

Feature image: Getty/Nine.