New year rings in federal policy changes

As 2022 ticks over into 2023, a raft of new changes and laws are set to come into effect.

From increased payments and fines to the rolling back of pandemic measures, January 1 brings major changes.

Centrelink payments will rise from the start of the year following changes to indexation levels.

Youth Allowance recipients will see a rise to their rate of between $19.10 and $41.40 a fortnight, depending on circumstances.

The rate for those on Austudy will rise between $32.40 and $41.40, while those under 21 with no children and on disability support will receive an increase of between $27.40 and $40.70.

The average cost of fines for federal offences will increase from the start of the year, with one penalty unit rising from $222 to $275.

Medicines will be cheaper from the start of the year, with the maximum cost for the general patient co-payment under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) reduced from $42.50 to $30.

New medicines will be added to the PBS, including faricimab, to treat macular degeneration; daratumumab, for AL amyloidosis; and beclometasone, for the treatment of severe asthma.

The PBS concessional co-payment is rising from $6.80 to $7.30 in line with soaring inflation, which means increases for pensioners, veterans and people with health care cards.

The safety net thresholds will also be updated due to inflation, rising to $262.80 for concession card holders and $1563.50 for general patients.

January 1 will also bring changes to how COVID-19 tests can be accessed.

PCR tests funded by Medicare will now require a referral from a medical practitioner or nurse as part of the government's national COVID-19 strategy.

However, free PCR tests will still be available from clinics operated by state or territory governments.

Financial penalties for residential land breaches to do with foreign investments will double from the start of the year.

The government is set to extend the Disability Support for Older Australians Program from the start of the year, with an extra $53 million set aside for the scheme in the next 12 months.

Small businesses will benefit from an extension to the Small Business Debt Helpline and the NewAccess for Small Business Owners programs from January 1.

A one-year national skills agreement, an outcome of the government's jobs and skills summit, will begin at the start of the year.

The agreement will deliver 180,000 fee-free TAFE and vocational education places in areas of highest need.