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With every New Year, we often experience changes in many different areas of our lives. One area that you may not have thought about, however, is the law. The beginning of 2019 brings with it a few new laws that you might not be aware of yet, so we have prepared this article to help you get your head around some of the new laws of 2019 that might have an impact on you.

 

Tampon tax finally gone

The 10% goods and services tax that has been imposed on menstrual products since 2000 was finally abolished on 1 January 2019 – after both major political parties changed their stance on the matter. The tax has long been the topic of controversy, with many labeling it ‘unfair’ and ‘sexist’ because other health products such as condoms and Viagra were not subject to the tax.

It is estimated that the abolition of the ‘tampon tax’ will cost state governments approximately $30 million every year, however, the federal government is not concerned, saying they have already received more GST than forecast.

 

No jab, no play

As of 1 January 2019, the WA Health Department now has the authority to ban un-vaccinated and under-vaccinated children from attending school during disease outbreaks. This new power comes after the WA government introduced regulations stipulating that schools and child care centers must report on the vaccination status of all children in their care and must not allow un/under-vaccinated children to attend school if there is a disease outbreak occurring.

The WA government has said they intend to extend this ban to prevent un/under-vaccinated children from attending childcare and kindergarten at all.

The WA Health Department has provided instructions on how to check what vaccinations your child has had, in case you are unsure.

 

Anti-ticket scalping laws

The McGowan government’s new ticket scalping laws will make it illegal for ticket re-sellers to sell tickets with a mark-up of more than 10% of the original ticket price. To further help reduce the amount of people who get ripped off by ticket scalpers, ticket re-sellers will have to display the original price of the ticket as well as the price they are selling it for.

Commerce and Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnson has explained that ticket re-selling is not going to be made illegal altogether because sometimes people have legitimate reasons for wanting re-sell their ticket, for example if they become unwell or something unexpected happens. The new law is simply trying to stop people who buy tickets for the purpose of making a profit off them, with no intention of actually attending the event.

To send a message about how seriously this issue is being taken, individuals who do not abide by these new laws will face fines of up to $20,000 and corporations will be liable to fines of up to $100,000.

These laws are likely to come into effect in the near future.

 

Plastic bag fines

At the beginning of 2018 we wrote an article detailing the new laws for the year, with the plastic bag ban being one of them. As of 1 July 2018, single use plastic bags were banned in WA, however businesses were not fined for breaching the new rule, until now. Starting from 1 January 2019, retailers will face fines of up to $5,000 if they give out single use plastic bags.

The Consultation Summary released by the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation in June 2018 revealed that 94.7% of people were in support of the plastic bag ban (out of approximately 4,500 survey responses).

In an effort to continue to reduce the amount of plastic bags used by West Australians, an initiative which is widely supported by the community, supplying single use plastic bags will now be an offence. The ban applies to not only the obvious retailers that come to mind such as Coles and Woolworths, but also to small retailers, fast food outlets and markets etc.

 

Easier to get youth allowances

More students living in remote areas will be able to access Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY Living Allowances due to the parental income limit increasing from $150,000 to $160,000 per annum. The new parental income limit will also increase by $10,000 for each sibling. For example, in a family with two eligible kids, the parental income limit will be $170,000.

Other changes to the ABSTUDY Living Allowance include an increased payment rate for eligible students as of 1 January 2019. Eligible students are those that are younger than 16, in secondary school, study away from home and receive ABSTUDY Living Allowance at the ‘away from home’ rate.

For students who receive ABSTUDY and study away from home, the allowance will now cover more family visits as well. Up to three return trips can be provided for school events such as performances, receipt of awards and graduation. The trips can also be used for the purpose of attempting to keep a student in school if they are homesick or at risk of expulsion.

 

Harder to get a credit card

ASIC has announced new assessment requirements for banks when determining what sort of credit card contract a customer can enter into. As of 1 January 2019, the banks must base the decision on whether they believe the person has the ability to repay the credit card limit within a three-year-period.

Institutions such as American Express, Westpac, the Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Citi, ANZ, Bendigo, HSBC, Latitude, Adelaide Bank and Macquarie will also be offering the ability to request a credit limit reduction or card cancellation online and will no longer be able to offer credit limit increases that are unrealistic for the customer’s situation. When choosing whether to offer a credit limit increase, the bank must also use the three-year-period test.

Australians owe more than $50 billion in credit card debt alone, with the new ASIC regulations aimed at reducing the amount of Australians who are unable to pay off their credit cards.

 

Income tax cuts

At the beginning of July 2019, Australians will benefit from an income tax cut. Lower income earners, earning up to $37,000, will enjoy a tax reduction of approximately $200 per annum. The tax bills of people in the middle income earning range of $48,000 to $90,000 will reduce by approximately $530 per annum. It is estimated that these offsets will affect about 10 million Australians, with approximately 4.4 million of those receiving the maximum offset of $530.

In the 2017/18 financial year, people earning between $37,001 and $87,000 per annum were taxed 32.5%, however, the new changes will increase the upper threshold to $90,000. People earning between $87,001 and $90,000 previously had to pay 37% tax, so the 2018/19 amended tax brackets will see those people paying 4.5% less tax than the previous financial year. This tax cut is estimated to save those affected, (approximately 3 million people) about $135 per year.

The government’s plan is that at the conclusion of the 2022 financial year, the top threshold of the 32.5% tax bracket will increase again to $120,000.

 

Work and holiday visa changes

As of 1 July 2019, a number of changes will come into effect in relation to both the 417 and 462 visa programs, both of which are sub-classes of Working Holiday visas. Currently, the maximum age for a 417 or 462 visa holder is 30, however this will increase to 35 in July for applicants from Canada and Ireland. Furthermore, there will be more places available for the 462 visa each year.

Other changes include the ability for people on working holidays to stay with the same employer for up to one year, as opposed to the six month limit that currently exists. Currently, 462 visa holders have to work in Northern Australia to be eligible to apply to stay in Australia for an extra year, however, as of 1 July 2019 the 462 visa holders will be eligible to apply for this extension if they are working in regional areas of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as all of South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

Another change is that workers will be able to remain in Australia for three years if they work for six months in regional areas. The current time is two years.

These changes are designed to make working in Australia more appealing and to encourage more overseas workers to work in the agricultural industry in Australia. Scott Morrison has said that, although it is important that Australian citizens are able to obtain work, it is also vital that farmers are not left with rotting crops due to a lack of workers.

 

Foreign donations to political parties

A new law has been introduced to prevent donations exceeding $1,000 being made to Australian political parties and political campaigners by foreign sources. The law, which took effect on 1 January 2019, also prevents foreign donors from giving gifts over the value of $100 to Australian political parties and political campaigners if the gift is to be used for the purpose of electoral expenditure or creating or communicating electoral matter. Foreign donors include, but are not limited to, political bodies of foreign countries and foreign public enterprises.

 

Online foreign bookmakers face new taxes

The imposition of ‘point-of-consumption’ taxes, starting on 1 January 2019, will potentially shake up the online betting industry. Prior to 2019, online bookmakers were taxed based on where they held their license, whereas now they will be taxed based on where each bet is placed.

This means that foreign online betting services such as Sportsbet and BetEasy will no longer be able to avoid paying tax on bets placed in Australia using their services. The point-of-consumption tax will be too expensive for some smaller betting services to handle, according to gaming industry analysts, who say only the biggest bookmakers will be able to survive with the additional taxes. This will probably result in a consolidation of online betting services, therefore reducing the amount of fierce competition between the services.

 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of the new laws for 2019 detailed above, please do not hesitate to contact Lynn & Brown Lawyers for friendly expert advice.

 

About the authors:

This article has been co-authored by Chelsea McNeill and Jacqueline Brown at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Chelsea is in her third year of studying Law at Murdoch University. Jacqui is a Perth lawyer and director, and 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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