Tampon Tax Axed
The 10 percent GST on sanitary products, such as tampons and menstrual pads, will be axed on January 1. The removal of this tax was celebrated as a victory by women’s rights groups who have campaigned against the “sexist” tax since it was introduced in 1999.
Criticised as “a tax on women”, the tampon tax was controversially levied on sanitary products despite other items, including incontinence pads, sunscreen and Viagra, receiving exemptions.
Credit Card Crackdown
From January 1 Credit card providers will have to provide proof a card holder can afford to pay back their credit limit within three years. Providers will also have to stop applying interest rates retrospectively and provide online avenues for credit card cancellation.
The scheme is targeted at addressing Australia’s debt problem and the mis-selling of credit cards, following the banking royal commission.
Easier for Borrowers with Interest-only Loans to Refinance
The financial regulator will lift restrictions on interest-only residential lending, which forced lenders to limit new interest-only lending to 30 per cent of home loans they issue.
Some Free TAFE Courses for Victoria Residents
If you live in Victoria, some of your TAFE courses will be free. The offer is only available if you’re Australian or a New Zealander and aged under 20, upskilling, unemployed or looking to change careers.
“Baby Bundles” Joy for NSW New Parents
New parents living in New South Wales will be receiving a “Baby Bundle” worth $300. Funded by tax payers, the said gift includes information for new parents, as well baby products such as a sleeping bag, thermometer, first aid kit, barrier cream, baby toothbrush, muslin wrap, baby wipes, breast pads and others. Baby bundles, which will alleviate some of the costs that come with having a new baby, will be sent to the nominated address of the new parents.
There will also be a $100 rebate for cultural activities — such as art classes, dancing and drama lessons for school-aged children. A similar subsidy is already in place for participation in sport.
The Government will also provide subsidies for three-year-olds to attend pre-school for two days a week. Previously the subsidy was available only for the year before school.
‘No Jab, No Play’ Policy in WA
The ‘No Jab, No Play’ policy will be introduced to child care centres and schools in Western Australia in 2019. The policy says children need to be fully vaccinated — unless they are medically unable — to be enrolled for school or day care. Fees of $1000 apply for institutions who fail to follow the new regulations.
NSW and Victoria have already enforced the policy.
Plastic Bag Penalties in WA
Western Australia’s plastic bag ban will come into effect on January 1 with retailers facing fines of up to $5,000 for not following them.
Plastic bag suppliers and manufactures who provide misleading information to retailers about the bags could also be fined and prosecuted.
Queensland and WA introduced plastic bag bans in July following South Australia, the ACT, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. Victoria’s government has said it will ban plastic bags by the end of 2019, but it is unclear when NSW will also make the change.
Transport Prices Up
Fares in the ACT will increase by up to 2.5 per cent from January 5, 2019.
In Victoria, tram, train and bus adult and concession fares are set to increase by 2.2 percent.
Brisbane Translink customers will also be hit with a price hike. They will see a 1.8 percent increase in both adult and concession fares from January 7.
Road tolls in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are also set to jump.
Power Price Discounts
In NSW, ACT, Queensland and South Australia, concession card holders on default (standing offers) or non-discounted plans will get an automatic discount on electricity from January 1.
EnergyAustralia will also keep electricity prices flat for customers in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT in 2019, and will cut prices for Queensland customers.
Thousands of Victorians will also be eligible for a new power rebate from power giants EnergyAustralia, Origin and AGL.
AGL has also announced electricity prices will come down by 1.6 per cent in Victoria, saving households $23 a year, while gas prices will come down by 0.9 for residential customers.
It comes after AGL lowered electricity prices across New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia from July 1, 2018.
Lifetime Cap on HELP Debt
The government will introduce a new lifetime limit of the amount of money loaned to university and Vocational and Education Training (VET) students.
The lifetime Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) will be set at $104,440 for most students, while those studying more expensive courses like medicine and dentistry will have a $150,000 cap.
Prior to January 1, the government capped only postgraduate, full-fee, and vocational loans.
The new cap is not retrospective, however, meaning that existing HELP loans taken out before January 1 will not count towards it.
Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY Boost
Life’s about to get a little easier for young adults in regional and rural Australia hoping to claim Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY, with the parental income limit rising from January 1.
The combined parental income limit will increase from $150,000 to $160,000 per year, with an extra $10,000 added for each additional child.
Family Court of Australia Nixed
With wait times blowing out to up to a year and a half, the overloaded Family Court of Australia will be combined into a single court with the Federal Circuit Court from January 1.
$2 ATM withdrawal fee
Beginning January 1, NAB cardholders will have to pay a withdrawal fee of $2 every time they use the 3,000 ATMs they previously withdrew from fee-less.
This change is due to the bank’s decision to cut ties with the RediATM network which CommBank, ANZ and Westpac continue to be part of.