The New Year is here which means some sweeping changes to laws, regulations, fees and charges, and taxes and benefits.
Some of the changes are a little quirky, from new taxes in exotic holiday destinations to a new “24-hour cat containment” policy.
Here’s everything you need to know about the big changes coming in 2024.
A tougher time for pets
A local council in Victoria will shift from a default “off-leash” dog zone to an on-leash one with designated off-leash areas.
Greater Bendigo City Council voted for the change in May and it means dog owners can only let their pets run free in certain spots from January 1.
The council will also introduce a 24-hour “cat containment” policy from July 1, 2024.
“The council’s decision means that all cats must be securely confined to their owners property 24 hours a day and dogs can only be off leash in designated off leash public areas within the municipality,” Greater Bendigo Mayor Andrea Metcalf said.
“Currently in Greater Bendigo, there is an order in place that requires cats to be secured to the owner’s property from sunset to sunrise.” The new order, when it comes into effect next year will require cats to be securely confined to the owner’s property at all times.
A new ‘tourist tax’ for Bali lovers
Australians love travelling to the Indonesian island of Bali, but it’s going to get more expensive in 2024.
The island paradise is introducing a new “tourist tax” in 2024, slapping visitors with a new $150,000 Indonesian rupiah levy, which works out to about $15.
The tax is designed to help the Balinese government preserve the island’s delicate culture and ecosystem from the crush of tourists who visit it.
The tax will be paid at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar.
Data from Bupa Travel Insurance shows Indonesia remained Australia’s most popular travel destination for 2023, followed by the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
There will be ‘digital’ driver licences
Victoria will deliver a statewide rollout of a hi-tech experiment to transfer driver licences onto phones, following in the footsteps of NSW and Queensland.
The new technology will give motorists the choice to store a secure digital version of their driver’s licence in the Service Victoria app or VicRoads app
The Victorian government says the digital card features “superior” security features and updates in real time in response to any changes such as new licence conditions or a change of address.
Digital licences will automatically reveal if a licence has been revoked or suspended but will still be available for use to prove identity or age when it is not active, the government said in May 2023.
The licence has a timed QR code that can be scanned by licence validators such as police, businesses and other authorities to verify authenticity and prevent fraudulent use.
“A digital driver’s licence will make it easier and more convenient for Victorian motorists and it will help businesses and authorities to verify identity with minimum time and fuss,” Victorian roads minister Melissa Horne said.
More time for punters to party during big events
After reforms to NSW’s 24 Hour Economy Bill 2023, more pubs and venues will enjoy extended trading hours for major events in Australia’s most populated state.
Across January, hotels, general bars, clubs, small bars and dedicated live music and performance venues will see their trading hours extended by two hours on select special occasions.
For the Parkes Elvis festival, trading hours move from 12pm to 2am for Friday and Saturday night and from 10pm to midnight for Sunday night.
The Tamworth Country Music Festival will also trigger two-hour trading extensions for venues.
More smoking bans
South Australia is tightening its regulations on smoking in public spaces, banning smokers from beach jetties and patrol flags, schools, kids’ sporting events, childcare settings and shopping centre entrances.
On the spot fines of $105 will be issued for anyone caught smoking in the prohibited spaces.
The bans also encompass vaping and e-cigarette vapour.
“We know how harmful passive smoking and the passive inhalation of e-cigarette vapour is, especially to young people,” Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia state director Dr Victoria Cock said.
“Passive smoking can cause disease and harm just as actively smoking and vaping can.
“These new measures are a positive step to keep the community safe from passive smoking and e-cigarette vapour.”
A serious crackdown on vapes
The federal government is cracking down on vapes, with Health Minister Mark Butler announcing a ban on imported e-cigarettes.
“The importation of disposable vapes will be prohibited, subject to very limited exceptions,” the Therapeutic Goods Administration states.
“The ban will apply to disposable vapes irrespective of nicotine content or therapeutic claims.
“It means that it will be unlawful to import disposable vapes on or after January 1, 2024, even if those vapes were ordered before 1 January 2024 and have not yet arrived in Australia.”
Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke says the ban will save “countless Australians” from disease and addiction.
“Lung Foundation Australia have been advocating for strong action on non-prescription vaping products since 2019,” he said.
“We know vaping products are harmful to health and are leading a new generation to nicotine addiction.
“As well as the import ban, accompanying laws preventing non-therapeutic vapes being advertised, sold or manufactured within our borders is a win for our young people who are being assailed by insidious marketing of these addictive devices wherever they turn.
“This action will prevent untold cases of lung damage and other serious health effects, reducing future pressures on the healthcare system by billions.”
It will cost more to get around on public transportation
The Victorian government is upping fares on Myki, the public transportation card for Melbourne and parts of regional Victoria, by 6 per cent.
The price hike will see a daily weekday fare rise to $10.60.
The concession daily maximum will be set at $5.30.
Australians will enjoy free vaccines at pharmacies
In a big boost for healthcare and the hip pocket, Australians will enjoy free shots for all vaccinations on the Commonwealth government’s National Immunisation Programme (NIP) at pharmacies across the country.
The NIP schedules recommended vaccinations for each stage of life from birth until old age, such as the rotavirus vaccine in the first few weeks of life to the shingles vaccine for adults.
Australians have been able get their vaccinations from local pharmacies for a while, but they had to pay for them out-of-pocket if they could not secure an appointment with a doctor.
“This is great news for Australians, great news for Australian families, which means they no longer have to wait secure an appointment with a general practitioner,” Pharmacy Guild national president Professor Trent Twomey said.
The changes mean patients will have greater choice and convenience about where they get their vaccinations.
Same Job Same Pay will mean higher wage bills for business
A signature change in industrial relations takes effect in 2024 following the passage of the government’s ‘same job same pay’ legislation.
The central pillar of the reform eliminates pay differentials between labour hire workers and direct hire employees working in the same job.
The new laws will hit sectors such as airlines and mining that lean heavily on labour-hire workers.
More mobile phone bans in more schools
More Australian schools will ban mobile phones during school hours in 2024.
In 2023, NSW moved to ban phones in schools during class, recess and at lunch, and now Queensland is following suit.
From Term 1, a full ban on phones will be in place under the state’s new “away for the day” policy.
Almost all Queensland state schools have bans in place, but not until 2024 not all of them covered break times.
The ban also covers wearable devices like smartwatches.
It is hoped the ban will help reduce cyber-bullying in schools.
Mobile phone bans in childcare centres
It is not yet certain this policy will come into effect, but a December 2023 report into safety procedures and arrangements in childcare recommends banning mobile phones in childcare centres.
Education Minister Jason Clare is reviewing the report.
The review follows revelations alleged pedophile and former childcare worker Ashley Paul Griffith allegedly raped and abused 91 pre-pubescent girls from 2007 to 2022.
The report recommends the government amend its regulations on childcare to make it illegal for “anyone who is working or engaged in a centre-based service in any capacity is prohibited from having personal electronic devices that can take images or video, such as tablets and phones, on their person while with children.”
The report also recommends the government review structural building requirements under the National Construction Code with the Australian Building Codes Board “to ensure building design facilitates unimpeded supervision of children at all times.”
Free kindy for 50,000 more kids
A key policy in former Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s 2023-24 budget was a $645m spend to provide free kindergarten to all children in the state.
It is expected the spend will mean an additional 50,000 kids will go to kindy for free.
The additional $645m brings the state’s total investment in kindergarten care and education to $2bn over four years.
“There are currently around 8000 children who are eligible to attend a kindy but don’t and it’s time to close that gap,” Ms Palaszczuk said in June.
“This investment will put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of families at a time when we know people are doing it tough and support parents getting back into the workforce.”
A ban on natural gas in new homes
Victoria will implement its controversial policy of banning the use of natural gas to power new homes in the state.
Former Premier Daniel Andrews introduced the policy in July to reduce the state’s carbon emissions.
Mr Andrews also touted the measure as a cost-of-living boost for families, claiming the ban will save households up to $1000 on their yearly energy bill.
New housing in Victoria will be powered by electric stoves and heating systems.
Victoria is the only state to implement the measure, with NSW Premier Chris Minns and WA Premier Roger Cook both rejecting the scheme for their own states in July.
“We’re not pursuing that … the challenges in energy are serious in NSW,” Mr Minns told radio station 2GB.
“I don’t want to lead anyone up the garden path when it comes to that
“We’re facing a situation where we need gas for industry.”
Cheaper road toll fares for motorists
NSW will introduce a $60 weekly cap for drivers on the state’s busy toll roads.
When drivers spend more than $60 a week on tolls on eligible trips, the government will reimburse them.
A fair use provision puts a $400 limit on the amount a driver can claim back.
So the maximum rebate a driver could receive is $340 a week. Anything above this limit will not be refunded.
The government calculates that a drivers who spends on average $200 per week from their individual tag or licence plate on tolls can expect to receive about $7280 in rebates per year.
“The $60 dollar toll cap starting January 1 is part of the Minns Labor government’s number 1 priority to deliver cost-of-living relief to families at a time when they are doing it tough,” NSW Roads Minister John Graham said.
“Motorists in western Sydney where access to public transport alternatives are more limited than in other areas will benefit the most from this targeted toll relief.”
An end to rebates for electric vehicles
Incentives to encourage pick-up in EVs in Australia will be rolled back starting on January 1.
In both NSW and South Australia, a $3000 government rebate for eligible new battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will end from January 1.
People who have bought a car, or have made a deposit, but have not yet had it delivered, will still be eligible for the cash boost.
Land taxes are going up
The Victorian government is introducing what it calls a “temporary land tax surcharge” from January 1 for the next 10 years.
There will be a new surcharge of $500 for landholdings valued between $50,000 and $100,000 and $975 for holdings valued between $100,000 and $300,000.
For holdings valued above $300,000, there will be a $975 surcharge plus a levy of 0.1 per cent of the taxable value that exceeds $300,000.
Family homes will be exempt from land tax.
Support payments are going up for more than 936,000 Aussies
More than 936,000 Australians will see a six per cent indexation boost to their support payments from January 1.
Young job seekers and students will see their youth allowance payments increase by up to $45.60 a fortnight.
Study payments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians will rise by up to $86 a fortnight.
The disability support pension for people under 21 will rise by up to $44.90 a fortnight and carers allowance payments will increase by $8.70 to $153.50 a fortnight.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the increases to payments would help “vulnerable” Australians navigate cost-of-living pressures.
“Australia’s social security system is a safety net that is continually strengthened and improved to support all vulnerable Australians,” she said.
“Through regular indexation, our payments are adjusted in line with changes in the cost of living to retain their purchasing power.”