States should cough up for virus: govt

The states can and must do more to help the economy cope, says Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
The states can and must do more to help the economy cope, says Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is applying pressure on states and territories to stump up more cash to help the economy cope with COVID-19.

The national virus death toll on Saturday reached 278 as restrictions on movement and borders continued to take a hammer to business.

Mr Frydenberg championed the federal government's $314 billion spend on bracing Australia against the virus, including through programs such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

By comparison, he said states and territories had promised about $44 billion.

"The states can do more, the states need to do more. They have the balance-sheet strength to do so," he told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

He singled out Victoria, saying nearly half the state's private sector workforce will be on JobKeeper in the coming months.

"The expectation is that of the four million Australians who will be on JobKeeper in the September quarter, some 1.5 million of them will be Victorians."

He said the support could come in various forms, such as small business grants, tax relief or bringing forward infrastructure projects.

"The Victorian government has already made some announcements, they've made around a half-billion-dollar announcement recently for small business grants and some relief for those businesses, but of course it needs to do more."

West Australian premier Mark McGowan on Saturday announced $150 million for tourism upgrades for sites across the state including Perth Zoo, Rottnest Island and the Dampier Peninsula.

"We're spending (the money) wisely on projects that can be implemented quickly and create the opportunities for private sector investment to build on them, and solve long term problems," Mr McGowan said.

He also announced spending as part of a broader $5.5 billion COVID-19 recovery plan on infrastructure upgrades through the Peel region south of Perth.

Tasmania on Saturday also expanded its small business recovery program, previously announced as worth $20 million.

The federal opposition criticised the government, claiming it had undermined some state and territory leaders for imposing border restrictions.

Opposition Health spokesman Chris Bowen asked the government to be specific in what it wants.

"If Scott Morrison has got a particular request of a premier he should make it and he should make it in detail and he should make it through the National Cabinet, not engage in a public slanging match with premiers," he said.

Australian Associated Press