A raft of changes affecting Australians came into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. From welfare, health, schools, and funding to tax, here are some of the new changes that may affect you and your family across Australia.
Government Pensions and Allowances
– A suite of measures were introduced in the 2017 budget to prevent welfare benefits from being used to fund drug and alcohol addictions. Up to 5000 new recipients of the Newstart and Youth Allowances in the local area of Logan in Queensland will be part of a two year drug testing trial. The government has set aside AU$10 million to assist any recipients who have tested positive for drugs.
– Students receiving youth allowance will see an increase in their fortnightly payments by at least $4.60 and an increase of $8.30 for student income payments such as Austudy. The disability support payments will increase by at least $7.
– The carer allowance will increase by an extra $2.40 a fortnight.
– Single parents will have their relationship status verified to ensure that they are not claiming an income support payment they are not entitled to.
– Australia’s National Immunisation Program will include a new vaccine for genital warts to guard against more strains of the virus at a cheaper cost, reported the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
– The federal government will add three medications to the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) to treat lung cancer, multiple myeloma, and cystic fibrosis, giving thousands of patients access to subsidised medication. Carfilzomib is used to treat multiple myeloma sufferers, while Alectinib is prescribed for lung cancer patients, and Mannitol for those with cystic fibrosis, reported AAP-SBS.
– Australian Defence Force veterans will get greater access to antibiotics, as well as heart disease and stroke medications from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, reported AAP.
– Communities affected by contaminated water supplies following the use of potentially toxic firefighting foams at the Tindal RAAF Base in the Northern Territory will be provided $5.7 million over four years, Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne, and Senator Nigel Scullion announced in a joint statement on Dec. 3.
– There will be a new funding scheme for schools, where government and non-government schools will shift to the Gonski 2.0 funding model. To help transition to the new scheme, underfunded schools will have a six-year transition period to help speed-up their funding needs in comparison to previously well-funded schools who will have a 10-year transition period to the new scheme. The Gonski 2.0 funding model will replace the 27 separate school funding deals with different states and sectors, with a nationally consistent, needs-based funding model, reported ABC.
– The amount of funding provided under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme for universities for bachelor degrees courses is capped at 2017 for two years.
– Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) assistance towards tuition fees will have limits of $150,000 for students undertaking medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses, and $104,440 for other students.
– Students with a parental home or usual place of residence located overseas will no longer be eligible to receive the Relocation Scholarship.
– The cost of applying for a new 10-year passport has increased to $282.
– Investors can no longer claim tax deductions on travel expenses relating to inspecting, maintaining, or collecting rent for a residential rental property.
– A $12,000 special duty on imported used vehicles has been removed.
– A new framework sets out obligations for parliamentarians and guidelines on what can be claimed as work expenses among other changes. This was introduced in response to multiple parliamentarians, such as Bronwyn Bishop in 2015, who misused their entitlements while in office.
Beyond January 2018
– Supermarkets such as Woolworths and Coles will be phasing out single-use plastic bags later in 2018 in most states such as Western Australia and Victoria. Big W and BWS stores will also be following the trend. New South Wales is the only state which has not taken action to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags, reported AAP.
– New incentives have been introduced for over-65s to downsize their homes and make super contributions up to $300,000, outside of the usual non-concessional contribution caps, from July 1 this year.
– New eligibility requirements will come in July 2018 for receiving the Age Pension or the Disability Support Pension.
– A New Child Care Package will start on July 2, 2018. The Child Care Subsidy will replace the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate.