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Vaccine rollout on national cabinet agenda

Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout will take centre stage when federal and state leaders meet for the final time this year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists the immunisation program remains on track to begin in March despite the government canning a deal for a candidate being developed in Brisbane.

The University of Queensland-CSL trials were abandoned after a protein in the medicine resulted in false positive results for HIV in some participants.

Health officials will provide Mr Morrison and his state and territory counterparts with an update at Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

The prime minister told reporters 31 million extra doses of other potential vaccines had been purchased to shore up availability.

The government had backed four potential vaccines, but didn’t expect them all to be winners.

“If that had occurred, that would have been truly extraordinary,” Mr Morrison said.

All leaders except for Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan are meeting in Canberra for the first time in months.

They will also receive a briefing from Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy ahead of next week’s mid-year economic update.

Dr Kennedy is expected to provide details on the jobs impact of the pandemic and employment growth prospects.

Road and rail projects, as well as rural and regional investment will be discussed as ways to propel the national economy out of recession.

There are no cases of coronavirus in the Australian community, as the rest of the world deals with 640,000 cases each day.

Key to keeping Australia’s virus-free status will be quarantine and border management, which will also be on the leaders’ agenda.

Pressure remains to allow more Australians to return home before Christmas, but state governments are adamant there are limits on the ability to quarantine those who wish to return.

Further lifting of restrictions will be discussed.

Mr McGowan won’t be attending as his state retains a ban on interacting with South Australians, including the state’s leader Steven Marshall.

“How can I expect all other West Australians to follow the rules if I don’t follow the rules?” he said.

It’s likely WA will not lift its quarantine requirements for SA travellers until Christmas Day.

The meeting comes as an Australian National University study shows Australia appears to have greater inequality levels now than at the start of 2020.

People lost the equivalent of $17,000 due to declining wellbeing or life satisfaction over the year.

“Clearly, how we protect the most vulnerable households in our society and economy during the ongoing COVID crisis remains a key and difficult challenge for policymakers,” study co-author Nicholas Biddle said.

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