FROM January 1, there are a raft of changes coming to welfare, health, education, housing, gay marriage and many other living expenses.
This is what’s coming and how it will affect you and your family across Australia.
* $10 million will be set aside for treatment services for job seekers affected by proposed drug testing trials, despite the pilot program being blocked in the Senate
* People receiving single parent payments will have their relationships verified to make sure they are not claiming income support they are not entitled to
* Youth allowance will rise by at least $4.60 and student payments by $8.30, while disability support will increase by upwards of $7
* Carers will receive an extra $2.40 a fortnight in line with inflation
* Schools will shift to the Gonski 2.0 funding model, with a six-year transition for underfunded schools and a 10-year transition for over-funded schools
* Commonwealth funding for universities will be frozen at 2017 levels for two years
* Student payments for vocational education and training (VET) will be restricted to courses deemed a high national priority, meeting industry needs, addressing skills shortages and aligning with employment outcomes
* Lifetime limits on Commonwealth assistance towards tuition fees will be capped at $104,444 for most students and $150,000 for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science students
* Relocation scholarships will no longer be offered to students shifting from overseas or studying abroad
* The period regional and remote students must earn the amount required to meet the self-supporting independence criteria for youth or ABSTUDY living allowance will be reduced from 18 to 14 months
* New homeowners will not be able to claim the cost of inspecting and maintaining rental properties as tax deductible. The change was designed to reduce the pressure of housing affordability in the 2017-18 budget.
* The cost of a 10-year Australian passport increases by $5, to $282. A five-year passport has gone up $3, to $142.
* A new vaccine against genital warts will be listed on the National Immunisation Program, guarding against more strains of the virus at a cheaper cost
* Three medications, including a groundbreaking cancer fighter, will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS), slashing their price by thousands of dollars. Carfilzomib is used to treat multiple myeloma sufferers, while Alectinib is prescribed for lung cancer patients and Mannitol for those with cystic fibrosis. Around 1130 people are expected to benefit from the extra coverage, which comes at a total cost of more than $300 million. Instead of $138,000, multiple myeloma patients for example will be charged $39.50 a script, while concession holders will pay just $6.40.
* Defence veterans will be given greater access to antibiotics as well as heart disease and stroke medications through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
* The government will provide $5.7 million over four years to communities affected by contaminated water supplies following the use of potentially toxic firefighting foams at the Tindal RAAF Base in the NT
* The $12,000 special duty on imported used vehicles will be axed
* A new parliamentary expenses regime will come into effect after a number of MPs including Bronwyn Bishop and Sussan Ley were accused of misusing their entitlements
Beyond these changes from January 1, there are more changes afoot for 2018. Some of them are below:
PLASTIC BAG BAN
Single-use plastic bags will be gone at the check-outs of Woolworths and Coles in 2018. Woolworths revealed it would begin phasing out the bags in supermarkets, Big W and BWS stores, with a total ban in place by June 30. The move sparked Coles to agree to do the same less than two hours later. Harris Farm Markets has also supported the move to phase out their bags. Western Australia will be plastic ban-free from July 1, 2018, and Victoria plans to set a date for its own plastic bag ban in 2018. NSW is now the only state in Australia that has not taken action to ban or reduce the presence of supermarket plastic bags.
After the House of Representatives passed the Gay Marriage Bill on December 7, same-sex couples will be able to legalise their union from January 9.
CASHLESS DEBIT CARD
As part of the 2017-18 Federal Budget, the Australian Government announced the cashless debit card would be expanded to a third and fourth location. These two new locations will be the Goldfields region, Western Australia and the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region, Queensland. Both were selected based on support from local community and high levels of welfare dependency. The card will come to these new locations from early 2018.
In 2018, the current 457 visa program will be abolished and replaced with the new TSS visa program. The TSS visa allows stays of up to two and four years.
From March 2018, applicants won’t be able to apply for Permanent Residency under the Direct and Employer Nominated Transition Streams if their occupation is not on the long and medium term occupation lists. But those who held or applied for a 457 visa from April 18, 2017 will be still be able to apply for the transition permanent visa option after March 2018, even if their occupation is on the short list.
A bill proposing new regulations to make partner visa sponsorship stricter is still before the Senate and is likely to not come into effect until 2018.
TRAVEL COSTS GOING UP
Victoria’s CityLink fees are increasing, adding up to $31.20 to an annual bill for drivers using the tollway every weekday. The maximum car toll per one-way trip rises to $9.13, up from $9.07. In NSW, tolls for the Cross City Tunnel, Eastern Distributor, Hills M2 and Lane Cove Tunnel will also increase. There are also changes to Airportlink tolls in Queensland from Kedron to Toombul, Bowen Hills to Kedron and Bowen Hills to Toombul.
OVER-THE-COUNTER CODEINE GONE
From February 2018, codeine medicines Nurofen Plus, Panadeine, Mersyndol and Codral become available only by prescription. Pain Australia has urged people who rely on these medicines to speak with their doctor to find alternatives.
Data breach notification will become mandatory as of February 2018 for all Australian entities required to comply with the Privacy Act 1988. When Federal Parliament passed the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017 last year, it started a process that means from February 22, 2018, all entities covered by the Australian Privacy Principles will have clear obligations to report eligible data breaches within 30 days. If an eligible data breach is confirmed, entities must provide a statement to each of the individuals whose data was breached or who are at risk, and notify the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).
From July 1 2018, the government has introduced an incentive for over-65s to downsize their homes, and make super contributions up to $300,000, outside the usual non-concessional (after-tax) contributions cap
From July 1 2018, to receive Age Pension or Disability Support Pension (DSP), a person will need:
*10 continuous years of Australian residence including at least five years during their Australian working life, or
*10 continuous years of Australian residence and proof they have not received activity tested income support for cumulative periods of five years or more, or
*15 years of continuous Australian residence. More info here.
Parents get access to a New Child Care Package from July 2, 2018, where a new Child Care Subsidy (CCS), will replace the current Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate.
The CCS will be supported by the Child Care Safety Net and is designed to be simpler than the current multi-payment system, and is expected to offer more help to low and middle income families. To be eligible to receive CCS for a child, the child must be aged 13 years or under and not attending secondary school. The child also must meet immunisation requirements and the parent or carer must meet residency requirements.