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A Year of Change: Your Guide to The Important New Laws Being Introduced in Australia in 2024

Happy New Year!

With the advent of the new year, Australia is ushering in a wave of transformative changes brought about by a range of recently enacted laws. Ranging from ground-breaking health initiatives to various changes to the welfare system, it’s safe to say that these laws will directly or indirectly impact most Australians.

Whether you’re a legal professional seeking an analysis of these changes, or you’re just a concerned citizen eager to comprehend the implications for daily life, this article aims to serve as a valuable guide to help you navigate the intricacies of Australia’s evolving legal landscape.

Here is a quick breakdown of some of the changes that 2024 will bring:

The Disposable Vape Importation Ban:

Initiating its rollout on January 1, the inaugural phase of these new laws introduces a prohibition on the importation of all single-use, disposable vapes. This will apply irrespective of nicotine content or therapeutic claims.

The ban also applies to individuals who have ordered disposable vapes from overseas for therapeutic use under the personal importation scheme. Amidst these stringent measures, there’s a nuanced exception designed for globetrotters making their way to Australia. These international travellers are granted a limited allowance, enabling them to carry a small quantity of vapes – a lifeline for their own treatment or that of a fellow traveller under their watchful care.

Welfare Payments Set to Increase:

Youth Allowance recipients are set to witness a boost in their fortnightly payments, ranging from $22.40 to $45.60. Similarly, Austudy beneficiaries can anticipate an increase in their payments, ranging from $36.20 to $45.60 per fortnight.

For those under 21 years old on the Disability Support Pension, an enhancement in payments awaits, ranging from $31.10 to $44.90 every fortnight. Meanwhile, over 600,000 dedicated carers will experience a positive financial shift, with the Carer Allowance set to increase to $153.50 per fortnight.

Changes to Medicare:

The Medicare Safety nets are increasing in-line with inflation.

The scheme comprises two components:

  1. Original Medicare Safety Net: When gap expenses reach the annual threshold, Medicare will now reimburse 100% of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee, up from the previous 85%.
  2. Extended Medicare Safety Net: This enhanced rebate for out-of-pocket costs from Medicare-eligible out-of-hospital services sees Medicare covering up to 80% of future out-of-pocket costs once the threshold is surpassed, lasting for the remainder of the calendar year.

The original threshold has seen an increase of $28.70, while concession card holders will see a rise of $41.50 in the extended threshold. For non-concessional individuals and families, the extended threshold has increased by $130.30.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Medications to Become More Expensive:

Last year, the highest expense for many standard prescriptions covered by the PBS was $30 for individuals under Medicare and $7.30 for those holding concession cards.

However, fast forward to this year and we witness a slight uptick of $1.60 for general patients, now facing a maximum cost of $31.60.

Concession cardholders are also subject to a marginal increase, footing an additional 40 cents, with the new maximum set at $7.70.

The 50% Rule for University Students Has Been Abolished:

Prior to 2024, Australian university students were obligated to successfully complete a minimum of half of their academic units to maintain eligibility for Commonwealth assistance, including university loans.

However, a significant change has taken effect. The previous requirement has been eliminated. This adjustment is a key component of the government’s recently introduced “support for students” policy.

Seniors Will Now Be Able to Earn More Before Having Their Pension Payments Affected:

Starting from January 1, seniors and veterans with a desire to remain in the workforce will experience a welcomed adjustment in their pension arrangements.

The federal government has decided to make a substantial and permanent increase to the Work Bonus limit, elevating it from $7,800 to $11,800. This change, initially a temporary measure set to expire at the end of 2023, has rightfully been solidified.

Under the pension income test, single pensioners are allowed to earn up to $204 per fortnight, while couples can earn $360. Additionally, the Work Bonus contributes an extra $300 per fortnight, further expanding the permissible income limit. In essence, a single age pensioner can now generate up to $504 a fortnight from employment and still qualify for the maximum pension rate. This enhancement aims to provide greater financial flexibility for those seniors and veterans choosing to remain active in the workforce.

Non-trade Trainees Are Now Eligible for Apprenticeship Loans:

Prior to the new year, the federal government had a program that offered apprentices interest free loans to help them purchase trade tools and supplies. This program permitted eligible persons up to $24,492.

Now though, the government has extended this program to allow non-trade apprentices, such as those in areas like childhood education and aged care, access to these interest free loans.

In addition to these important changes, the government has added over 19 new occupations to the Apprenticeships Priority List. This program allows eligible full-time apprentices to receive up to $10,000 over the duration of their studies to assist with cost-of-living pressures. To see if you are eligible for the program, head to the relevant government website.

Tax system changes:

On 25 January the government has announced that the planned “Stage Three” tax cuts will be amended so that there is a tax saving for everyone, not just those in the highest tax bracket, which changes will come into effect on 1 July 2024—more about those later.

Lynn and Brown Lawyers encourage anyone who has questions regarding the new laws being introduced to get in touch with one of our experienced lawyers. You can contact us at www.lynnandbrown.com.au or by calling 9375 3411.

 

About the Authors: This article was co-authored by Max and Jacqueline Brown. Jacqui is a Perth lawyer and director at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Jacqui has over 20 years’ experience in legal practice and practices in family law, mediation and estate planning. Jacqui is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator and a Notary Public.

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