Fully vaccinated Australians and their families will be the first people to benefit when NSW scraps quarantine for international arrivals.
Scott Morrison on Friday supported the state government's shock decision to end isolation requirements for people who land in Sydney from November 1.
But the prime minister limited the scope to citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families despite NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet insisting tourists would be included.
All arrivals will need to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus and return negative tests for the disease before and after their flight.
The definition of immediate family will be expanded to include parents, rather than just partners and children.
All Australians will also be allowed to leave the country from the start of next month without having to receive special permission.
Mr Morrison denied Mr Perrottet was hasty to suggest tourists, skilled migrants and international students would be allowed to return.
"The premier understands that's a decision for the Commonwealth government, not for the state governments," he told reporters in Sydney.
"When we believe that is a decision to make, we will make it at that time.
"I'm going to progress steadily but at the same time carefully and I welcome this first step. I think it's a positive step."
More than 45,000 Australians are stranded overseas with tight arrival caps and border restrictions hampering their return.
Mr Morrison said vaccination coverage exceeding 80 per cent would allow states to follow NSW.
NSW will allow 210 unvaccinated international arrivals each week to undertake two weeks of quarantine.
The prime minister said he had written to leaders from other states and territories for expected caps.
Qantas announced it would bring forward the resumption of international flights to November 1 following the NSW decision.
The national carrier will operate five return flights a week from Sydney to London and up to four return flights a week from Sydney to Los Angeles.
Under the national reopening plan, an 80 per cent double-dose vaccination rate was supposed to trigger a gradual reopening of international travel with "safe countries" and "proportionate quarantine".
The national cabinet deal - based on Doherty Institute modelling - signalled reduced requirements for fully vaccinated travellers.
But quarantine-free travel was only part of the final "post-vaccination" phase, which seeks to manage coronavirus in the same way as other infectious diseases.
Mr Morrison said the NSW decision was consistent with the plan.
Mr Perrottet said he had numerous discussions with the prime minister about scrapping quarantine but agreed the federal government would need to implement border measures.
"We want tourists back into the state as quickly as possible."
The premier said he could not control other states' quarantine requirements but urged overseas travellers to spend time in Sydney if required.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters to take a "chill pill" after being asked about the NSW decision.
"Victoria will go about its business in the national context, understanding it's the Commonwealth who control international borders, not the states," he said.
Queensland will reassess its border restrictions because of the decision.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said arrivals in Sydney wouldn't be welcome in his state.
"It's obviously not in accordance with the national plan, what's going on over there," he said.
"If you return from overseas and you don't do two weeks of hotel quarantine in NSW, you're not going to be permitted to come into WA."
NSW recorded 399 new local coronavirus infections on Friday, while case numbers in Victoria continue to soar with 2179 registered.
There were six deaths in Victoria and four in NSW.
Southern Tasmania will enter a three-day lockdown after a man with coronavirus escaped hotel quarantine.
Australia has fully vaccinated 66.3 per cent of its eligible population aged 16 and over, while 84 per cent have received their first dose.
Australian Associated Press