By ABC political reporter Melissa Clarke
International arrivals to Australia could be cut, with national cabinet meeting on Friday morning to consider a reduction in the number of Australians returning home and heading into hotel quarantine.
With many parts of Australia under lockdown and other Covid-19 restrictions, some states have spent days pushing for a temporary cut to take pressure off both the quarantine and broader health systems.
The federal government has indicated it is open to the idea, which is being pushed by the Queensland, Victorian and West Australian governments.
The move would be a blow to the at least 34,000 Australians stranded overseas wanting to return to the country.
Currently, the weekly cap on Australia's international arrivals is 6370, with New South Wales taking half of those arrivals in Sydney.
The cap on arrivals coming into Melbourne is 1000 a week, Brisbane up to 1300 and Perth takes 530 a week.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Wednesday she would push for national cabinet to cut the passenger cap by "at least 50 percent or 75 percent".
"I would like to see a massive reduction. We need to do that now because we need to contain this Delta strain."
She is also continuing to push the federal government to develop dedicated quarantine facilities, especially in regional areas.
"I believe regional quarantine is the answer. It would alleviate the pressure on the states on the east coast, on the major capital cities."
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the federal government was open to discussing the passenger caps.
"We've shown a willingness to adjust based on changed risk profiles," he said on Thursday.
"We will always look at that, it is what we did as a government when we stopped all arrivals from India."
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan said he was frustrated by what he described as "unnecessary" international travel by some Australians.
"There is a large group of people who have been overseas on multiple occasions and every time they go overseas, they increase the risk," he said.
"It's just not right. We need to crack down on this."
Reducing the weekly limit on international arrivals would mean even longer waits for the tens of thousands of Australian citizens and permanent residents stranded overseas.
Of the 34,000 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wanting to come home, around 3700 are classified as 'vulnerable' due to health, financial or personal circumstances.
The majority are stranded in India, the UK, the United States, the Philippines and Thailand.
Cutting the number of arrivals would be a "difficult call" but a necessary one, according to Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.
"You have to give hard messages to people who will be desperately sad to say 'No, you can't come home for those compassionate reasons'," he said.
"But if you're coming home for those compassionate reasons makes it much more likely there will be an outbreak and we have to lock everybody down, then you've got to make that tough call.
"The greatest good for the greatest number - and that's exactly what we'll do."
The meeting of national cabinet will also discuss the vaccine roll-out following an intense debate about the best immunisation options for under 40s.
The federal, state and territory leaders will also discuss extending the Covid-19 National Partnership Agreement, which covers Commonwealth financial support for Covid-related health costs.