Many of us will be happy to put 2020 behind us and embrace a fresh new year.
But along with New Year’s resolutions comes a raft of new rules, regulations, taxes and some benefits you need to know about.
Here are all the changes coming in 2021.
COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT
The Australian Government is aiming to have as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible in 2021.
The first vaccinations will likely be rolled out in Australia in March 2021.
Priority groups will get the first available doses, provided they are proven safe and effective, but more people will be have access to a vaccine as more doses become available throughout the year.
Anti-vaxxers will not be forced to have the vaccine as Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed that a mandatory COVID vaccination “is not the government’s policy and has never been the government’s policy”.
“Of course, we would encourage people to take up the opportunity. But they will make their own choices and we’ll be seeking to provide the necessary assurances about the safety of the vaccine,” he said.
The COVID-19 vaccine may be mandatory for all visitors to Australia, however.
Overseas travellers might have to produce a vaccination certificate before boarding their flight to Australia.
While some borders are still firmly closed, domestic and international travel is expected to gradually continue to reopen as the pandemic eases and the vaccine rolls out in 2021.
A forced two week quarantine is still in place for international travellers coming into Australia as well as for some states across the country, but this will likely ease as numbers go down.
Qantas CEO Allan Joyce has previously said mandatory vaccines will be a necessity for international airline travel.
“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say that for international travellers, that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft,” he said on A Current Affair in November.
JOBKEEPER TO BE AXED
JobKeeper, the economic stimulus to keep workers in jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be cut on January 4, 2021 and will be axed completely on March 28, 2021.
From January 4 until March 28, 2021, the payment will drop from $1200 to $1000 for full-time workers and from $750 to $650 per fortnight for part-time employees, after being cut from around $1500 a fortnight back in September.
The JobKeeper stimulus was introduced to provide support for businesses who faced financial losses to be able to pay their employees and keep them in jobs.
JOBSEEKER PAYMENTS DROP
JobSeeker was created to support people who suddenly found themselves out of work due to the pandemic and replaced Newstart Allowance.
JobSeeker Payment recipients and recipients of other eligible payments receive the Coronavirus Supplement on top of their base rate of payment. It was paid at an initial rate of $550 per fortnight until September 24. Then it was extended and at a rate of $250 per fortnight until December 31. From January 1 to March 31, the Coronavirus supplement will continue to be paid but at a rate of $150 per fortnight.
As part of the 2020–21 budget, the government announced a new incentive for businesses to employ additional young job seekers called the JobMaker Hiring Credit.
The JobMaker Hiring Credit, administered by the Australian Taxation Office, will give $200 a week to employers who hire anyone aged 16-30, and $100 a week for any worker aged 30-35.
Eligible employers have had access to a JobMaker Hiring Credit for each new job they create over the 12 months from October 7, 2020.
Employers will be able to make claims quarterly commencing in February 2021.
A number of concessions will be available in 2021 for certain visa holders impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Home Affairs has indicated it will implement a concession for certain family visa applicants who applied for their visas offshore then came to Australia and are stuck in Australia due to border closures.
The COVID-19 concession period commences from 1 February 2020 and is an interim arrangement.
Usually such applicants would need to be offshore in order to have their visas granted however the concession will now allow affected applicants to have their visas to be granted while they are in Australia.
Meanwhile, visa allocations for the Global Talent visa have been tripled to assist business sponsors in attracting high-calibre individuals with specialist skills to Australia with a pathway to Australian permanent residence.
RAISE A GLASS
2020 was a rough year for hospitality, with closures and restrictions to the number of patrons allowed in bars, restaurants and cafes.
The restrictions allowed a relaxation of takeaway booze laws, allowing a multitude of hospitality venues to still operate while coronavirus restrictions stifle normal trading.
However, the laws are likely to tighten again as the restrictions loosen.
LUMP SUM TAX CUT
We’ll all be getting an extra tax boost when we file our tax return in 2021.
Early tax cuts were implemented in October 2020, with a tax relief plan announced in the budget.
Workers have been receiving half of their early tax cuts in their pay, while the second lot of the tax relief will come mid-year when Aussies do their tax return.
The lump sum employees will get in their tax return will be the backdated amount from July 1, 2020 – which is about four to five months worth of tax cash.
STAMP DUTY CUT IN NSW
The NSW government announced stamp duty in NSW could be a thing of the past from mid-2021.
The proposed change, announced in the NSW budget, would mean stamp duty would be replaced with an annual land tax on new property transactions.
Homebuyers would have a choice between paying a one-off stamp duty bill or an annual property tax.
First-time buyers would get an extra incentive with a grant worth up to $25,000 under the proposed overhaul instead of an exemption from stamp duty.
The change could kick in from the second half of 2021.
PENSIONERS TO RECEIVE $250
A range of welfare recipients, including pensioners and disability carers, received the first of two $250 cash payments in December, while the other half will come through in March 2021.
The incentive for the elderly and carers is part of the government’s Economic Support Payments.
Those eligible for the money include aged and disability pensioners, veterans, people on carer payments and family tax benefit recipients.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders and pensioner concession cardholders are also eligible to receive the payment.
ENERGY BILL COULD GO UP
A number of industry sources are predicting an increase in energy prices from early 2021, since prices have been at their lowest levels in five years.
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor has said that wholesale electricity prices had significantly decreased over the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, the AFR reports that these low prices aren’t likely to stay at the record lows.
HEALTH INSURANCE CHANGES
Reforms to private health insurance announced in the federal budget include increasing the maximum age of dependants to 31.
From April 1, 2021, the government will increase the maximum age of dependants under family private health insurance policies from 24 to 31 years.
For dependants with a disability, there will be no age limit.
The change is an attempt to make health insurance more accessible and affordable for Australians.
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
The Australian Government has made mental health and suicide prevention a national priority, with an unprecedented $5.7 billion to be spent on mental health in 2020–21.
The number of Medicare-funded psychological services doubled in 2020, from 10 to 20 through the Better Access Initiative, announced in the 2020 budget.
The government also announced subsidised telehealth services, including for mental health services, would be extended until the end of March 2021.
More funding is also being provided to Lifeline, headspace, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline.
PBS SUBSIDY FOR CANCER DRUG
If you have ovarian cancer, your medication costs could be set to decrease with the listing of the drug Lynparza on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Instead of costing more than $140,000 per course, patients will now access the medicine at $6.60 per script for concession card holders, and around $41 per script for general patients.
PAID PARENTAL LEAVE CHANGES
People may have lost their jobs or worked reduced hours due to the coronavirus pandemic so may not meet the requirements of the government paid parental leave payment.
But the government has relaxed the rules a little so they are still covered.
Normally parents must have worked 10 of the previous 13 months before they gave birth or adopted a child to be eligible for the payment.
This changed to allow parents who give birth or adopt a child between March 22, 2020 and March 31, 2021 to still qualify for the payment if they have worked in 10 of the last 20 months.
NEW ROAD RULES
A new national road safety strategy is being rolled out for the decade from 2021 to 2030, expected to be finalised and approved in early 2021.
As part of the Road Safety Plan 2021, penalties will be strengthened to further deter reckless and hazardous driving.