Scott Morrison insists thousands more stranded Australians will re-enter the country each week, pressuring the states to boost capacities in hotel quarantine.
The prime minister is adamant the weekly cap on international arrivals will be increased by 2000 places.
"The planes will land with people on them and they'll be arriving," he told reporters on Thursday.
"It's a decision, it's not a proposal."
Mr Morrison even nominated how many more returning travellers each state would take.
He said NSW, Western Australia and Queensland would all accept an extra 500 people each week.
Other jurisdictions are expected to take the rest.
Mr Morrison's declaration puts him on a collision course with the premiers and chief ministers ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Friday.
The states and territories have not formally agreed to boost hotel quarantine, so the deal is not done yet.
More than 27,000 Australians stranded overseas are waiting to return.
But with an existing weekly cap of 4000 incoming passengers, airlines have warned it could take well into next year to bring them home.
The prime minister has rejected Labor's calls to bring thousands of people in on air force planes.
"Our advice is there is no need for that," Mr Morrison said.
"There are plenty of commercial planes ... it's the caps that were stopping the planes."
He has also pushed back against suggestions the Commonwealth should re-establish federal quarantine facilities, as it did early in the pandemic to house people returning from China and Japan.
The government argues there are tens of thousands of empty hotel rooms that can be used for quarantine.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese urged the prime minister to ensure people aren't being forced into paying exorbitant prices to return home.
"Access to Australia shouldn't be on the basis that you are rich enough to pay five figures to get on a plane," he told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Morrison has also softened his language dramatically on Queensland's popular border closures.
After spending months criticising the restrictions, the prime minister now says Queensland and others must bring down their borders eventually.
"I have never said they had to bring them down immediately," Mr Morrison said.
"I have just said we have got to have sensible and fair exemption systems and not have double standards and explain what we are doing."
Qantas boss Alan Joyce is pleading with the states to reopen domestic borders.
"Europeans have been fighting themselves for thousands of years but they have somehow managed to agree to keep borders open," he said.
But Mr Joyce won't be rethinking his decision to scrap all international flights until mid-next year, even to rescue Australians stuck overseas.
"The economics don't work," he said.
Australia's national panel of medical experts has proposed new definitions for coronavirus zones and hotspots in a bid to reopen state borders.
National cabinet was expected to discuss the definitions on Friday, but that is no longer the case.
The prime minister believes the proposed definitions are far too tough.
Australian Associated Press