Victoria's coronavirus crisis in aged care has sparked a federal-state rift as Scott Morrison seeks urgent advice on stopping the death spiral.
The prime minister abandoned a tour of Queensland on Tuesday to rush back to Canberra for crisis talks amid an escalating death toll.
Coronavirus has claimed 167 lives in Australia with four of the latest six victims aged care residents.
Workforce shortages across Melbourne nursing homes prompted Mr Morrison to scrap his Queensland tour.
"The urgency of the situation requires me to return to Canberra," the prime minister told reporters on the Sunshine Coast.
Fractures between the federal and state government emerged with more deaths linked to nursing homes expected in coming days.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he had no confidence in the federally regulated private sector to protect residents during the crisis.
"I would not let my mum be in some of these places. I just wouldn't," he told reporters.
That sparked backlash from federal cabinet members with Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck and Health Minister Greg Hunt rebuking the premier.
Mr Hunt fought back tears as he declared he would not hear a bad word against staff including those that cared for his late father.
"The idea that our carers, that our nurses are not providing that care is, I think, a dangerous statement to make," he told reporters in Melbourne.
Senator Colbeck said everyone in the sector was working hard under heavy strain.
"It doesn't need that sort of response from one of the country's leaders at a time like this, when they're all under enormous pressure," he told 3AW radio.
The prime minister revealed Australian Defence Force nurses were sent into one aged care home overnight to address staffing gaps.
Victoria recorded 384 new cases on Tuesday, down from a record high of 532 one day earlier
In the past three days, almost three-quarters of the 22 deaths have been linked to nursing home outbreaks.
There are 769 active cases among aged care residents and staff.
Mr Andrews said the state government had offered the private aged care sector assistance, with registered nurses being sent to help.
There were 14 new cases in NSW recorded on Tuesday with 13 locally acquired and one in hotel quarantine.
In South Australia there was one new case, a woman in hotel quarantine who had been allowed to cross the Victorian border for a new job.
From midnight, state authorities will prevent South Australians from returning home and tighten exemptions for essential workers.
Western Australia is maintaining hard border closures for all states, ruling out travel bubbles with other low-infection jurisdictions.
Queenslanders are being urged not to travel to NSW.
Australian Associated Press