What’s changing in 2020? This is what you need to know about new laws from New Year’s Day.

First home buyers will receive a boost.(Unsplash: Tierra Mallorca)
The beginning of a new decade is bringing with it a host of changes.

New Year’s Day brings some good news for first home buyers, working parents and pensioners buying medications.

Here’s what else you need to know about what’s changing from today.

First Home Loan Buyers Scheme

The scheme will operate on a “first-in, best-dressed” basis.(ABC News: Rachel Riga)
The program provides a guarantee that will allow eligible first home buyers on low and middle incomes to purchase a property with a deposit of as little as 5 percent.

The Government scheme will support up to 10,000 loans each financial year, starting from 1 January 2020. It will operate on a “first-in, best-dressed” basis.

Under the scheme announced ahead of the 2019 election, the Government will offer loan guarantees for Sydney properties worth up to $700,000, and $450,000 across the rest of New South Wales.

In Melbourne, eligible buyers will be able to access the scheme when purchasing a home worth up to $600,000, and $375,000 across other parts of the state.

Applicants will be subject to eligibility criteria, including having taxable incomes up to $125,000 per annum for singles and up to $200,000 per annum for couples.

NAB has already committed to being ready to offer guarantees from that date.

Extending access to parental leave pay

The work test will be amended to allow more women to qualify.(Pexels)
Parents in Australia have been entitled to government-mandated leave after childbirth or adoption since January 1, 2011.

Under the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, eligible new parents can take up to 18 weeks’ leave, funded by the Federal Government and paid at the rate of the national minimum wage.

Since 2013, fathers or partners have been entitled to “Dad and Partner Pay”, or DPP, a separate, non-transferable payment.

But as of today, the work test will be amended to allow more women to qualify.

Currently, to qualify for PPL, a parent must have worked a minimum of 330 hours in 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth, with no more than an eight-week break between two working days.

The Government will now extend the break between working days from eight to 12 weeks and allow women to move their work test period if they have had to stop work early due to a workplace hazard.

This will apply to parents of children born or adopted on or after January 1.

PBS changes

More people should be able to access discounts on the PBS scheme.(Pixabay)
Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the Government has promised to reduce the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) safety net by January 1, 2020, so Australians will receive cheaper or free scripts earlier.

According to a statement from Mr Hunt, the threshold to receive free or further discounted medicines through the PBS will be lowered by 12 scripts for pensioners and concession cardholders and the equivalent of two scripts for non-concession cardholders.

Electricity prices are going up

Victorian customers will have to prepare for higher electricity prices.(ABC)
In Victoria, the Australian Energy Regulator estimates the typical network tariff charge — which is only one part of a household bill alongside wholesale costs, retail margins, and other elements — will increase the average bill for residents by:

AusNet Services: $38.16
CitiPower: $26.14
Jemena: $37.26
Powercor: $46.00
United Energy: $53.04
The approved network tariffs take effect from 1 January 2020.

Price changes for NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT and Tasmania for the 2019-2020 year were changed on July 1, 2019.

Opt-out of super guarantee

There might be some good news for workers unintentionally going over the concessional contributions cap.(Pexels.Com: Startup Stock Photos)
From 1 January 2020, some workers with multiple employers can apply to opt-out of receiving the super guarantee (SG) from some of their employers.

This is particularly of interest to high-income earners who may be unintentionally going over the concessional contributions cap.

According to the Australia Taxation Office, you may be eligible to opt-out if you:

have more than one employer, and
expect your employers’ mandated concessional super contributions to exceed your concessional contributions cap for a financial year
The exemption certificate means the employer will not be liable for the super guarantee charge if they don’t make SG contributions on your behalf for the quarters covered by the certificate.

The end of Sydney’s lockout laws

Last drinks will be extended by 30 minutes at venues with “good records”.(ABC News: Jean Kennedy)
The NSW Government announced in November 2019 that its controversial lockout laws would be lifted in Sydney’s CBD and Oxford Street from January 14.

However, the laws will remain in place in Kings Cross.

The changes include removing 1:30am as the last entry for all licensed venues in the Sydney CBD, including Oxford Street, and extending last drinks by 30 minutes at venues with “good records”.

Other restrictions will also be lifted, including:

Removing restrictions on serving cocktails, shots and drinks in glass after midnight
Extending bottle shop opening hours across NSW until midnight from Monday to Saturday, with an 11:00pm closing time on Sunday
Increasing small bar patron capacity from 100 to 120 across NSW
ACT will be lighting up
Each household will be allowed a maximum of four plants. (Unsplash: Matthew Brodeur)
The ACT has become the first Australian jurisdiction to legalize the possession, use, and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis.

The new laws will allow possession of up to 50 grams per person and a maximum of four plants per household and will come into effect from January 31, 2020.

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