The new laws and changes coming into force in 2021

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·7-min read

As we prepare to put 2020 in our rear view mirror, Australians are no doubt keen to look ahead to 2021.

But there will be some changes – good and bad – heading our way in the new year.

Many of the notable changes relate to government policies brought in to help Aussies endure the coronavirus crisis.

Some changes, like the Jobkeeper allowance will come into effect in the coming days, while others such as a planned tax on electric vehicles in certain states will happen mid year.

Jobkeeper and JobSeeker changes

For those relying on the federal government’s JobKeeper payment, brought in as the pandemic decimated the economy back in March, the dollar amount is about to drop.

From 4 January 2021, the JobKeeper Payment rate is either:

  • $1000 per fortnight

  • $650 per fortnight – if you’ve worked less than 20 hours a week on average during February or June 2020.

The JobKeeper payment is set to end on the 28th of March, 2021.

For those looking for a job, the bump in financial assistance in the form of the so-called Coronavirus Supplement is also about to drop.

From January 1 this year, those on JobSeeker will be topped up at a rate of $150 per fortnight, down from $250 per fortnight.

It was a busy year for Centrelink. Source: Getty
It was a busy year for Centrelink. Source: Getty

Reduced HomeBuilder grant rolls over

The federal government announced an extension for its HomeBuilder grant for those who are seeking to build a new home or renovate an existing home.

Due to expire at the end of 2020, the government announced an extension of the grant until 31 March 2021, albeit at a significantly reduced rate.

For contracts signed between January 1 and the 31st of March 2021, eligible grant seekers can claim $15,000 – down from the original $25,000.

Relaxed rules for partnership visas

Partner visa hopefuls will no longer have to leave Australia to get their applications approved under temporary changes expected to help 4,000 people.

The changes will kick in early in the new year and are to assist people attempting to navigate coronavirus-related travel restrictions and hotel quarantine.

A man and woman getting married.
Those applying for partner visas will no longer have to do so from overseas. Source: Getty

"I know this will be a relief to those Australians who were concerned that their loved one may have to leave the country with no certainty as to when they could return," Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said last month.

New tenancy laws in Victoria

A raft of more than 130 tenancy reforms will be introduced by March 29 for those in Victoria. They were due to start on July 1, 2019, but were pushed back due to the pandemic.

The new laws, which followed a lengthy review, “aim to ensure that Victoria's rental sector meets the needs of tenants and landlords, now and into the future,” the state government said.

The array of reforms include better protection and support for victims of family violence living in rental accommodation, and make it easier for tenants to keep pets.

You can read more about the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 here.

Let's hope 2021 is batter than its predecessor. Source: Getty
Let's hope 2021 is batter than its predecessor. Source: Getty

Healthcare reforms

Reforms to private health insurance will see policies tweaked, increasing the maximum age of dependants to 31.

The move is designed to make private healthcare more accessible for Australians and was announced in the latest federal budget. It means the maximum age for dependants under family private health insurance policies jumps from 24 to 31 years.

The change will come into effect from April 1.

South Australia’s plastic ban comes into effect

South Australia's ban on single-use plastics, such as straws and cutlery, will come into force from March 2021.

The measures, the first of their kind in Australia, were passed in parliament in September but were put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have also been designed to allow more items to be progressively added to the banned list, with the government targeting polystyrene cups, bowls and plates to go by early 2022.

Fines could be imposed on businesses that don't comply with the new rules but Environment Minister David Speirs said he didn't think they would be necessary.

"I don't expect that to be the case because I think first and foremost, consumers are driving this and businesses by their very nature need to respond to consumers," the minister said.

Changes to immigration law

The federal government will be making some significant changes to its visa system making it tougher for business migrants to take up jobs in Australia.

The current Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) includes three visas and nine streams for applicants but that will be simplified to four streams (Business Innovation, Entrepreneur, Investor, and Significant Investor) and there will be changes to eligibility requirements, making it more stringent.

The changes will come into effect from July and are designed to bolster the economy’s bounce back from the pandemic, the government says.

Changes to your super coming + tax cuts

Changes are afoot in the system that governs your retirement savings as the government tries to clean up the industry and make sure you don’t end up with multiple accounts after moving around in different jobs.

“Under our reforms, your super will follow you,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in his October federal budget speech.

The new measures aim to tie a worker to their first super fund for life and will come into effect on July 1, 2021.

At the same time, you can expect a tax cut at the end of the financial year after the government pushed through the legislation in 2020.

The government wants to consolidate your super. Source: Getty
The government wants to consolidate your super. Source: Getty

New milk code becomes mandatory

A new milk code introduced by the consumer and competition regulator on January 1, 2020, will become mandatory for those in the early parts of the diary supply chain.

The industry code regulates the conduct of farmers and milk processors in their dealings with one another.

From 1 January 2021, all milk supply agreements, regardless of when they were entered into, must be compliant with the code, the ACCC said this month.

“The ACCC has been engaging with the dairy industry over the past year to help farmers and processors better understand their obligations and rights under this new mandatory code,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

The code, among other things, prohibits retrospective price "step downs" by processors, and bans exclusive supply arrangements deemed detrimental to dairy farmers.

Prepare for a tax on electric vehicles

South Australia recently announced it would be the first state in the country to impose a new tax on electric vehicles to make up for the fuel excise, which is said to raise money for the upkeep of roads.

Victoria soon followed suit while the country’s peak motoring organisation, the Australian Automobile Association, is calling for the taxing of electric vehicle owners to be rolled out on a national basis.

South Australia expects their yet-to-be-detailed charge to raise $1 million a year starting in July. Victoria’s will also come into effect in July.

The new taxes have drawn some criticism for their potential to deter buyers for the environmentally friendly cars. Source: Getty
The new taxes have drawn some criticism for their potential to deter buyers for the environmentally friendly cars. Source: Getty

Assisted dying on the agenda for NSW

An independent NSW MP says he will draft fresh legislation on access to voluntary euthanasia in the state, with debate to take place in early 2021.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said in a statement on December 13 that voluntary assisted dying should be legalised in NSW for terminally ill patients, following the lead of Western Australia and Victoria.

New Zealand also recently passed euthanasia laws via a referendum, with laws to come into effect in 2021.

Mr Greenwich encouraged his parliamentary colleagues to begin discussing the matter with their constituents ahead of debates in the new year.

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