Big road change coming on January 1
The New Year is almost here.
But while many of us will be quietly nursing hangovers and enjoying a public holiday, the first day of the year is actually a busy time when it comes to big rule changes such as new laws and regulations, fees and charges and taxes and benefits.
Here's what you need to know for January 1, 2020.
WARNING FOR MOTORISTS
From January 1, the Western Australian Government will scrap regular speed camera location updates from the WA Police Force.
Until now, the state's police force provided motorists with information on where speed cameras were set up on a particular day, but in 2020, that tradition will end in a bid to catch speeding drivers.
Instead, it will provide a list of around 1800 locations around the state which may or may not have a camera in place - so don't get stung.
The Queensland Government has also announced harsher penalties to come for drivers who use their mobile phone illegally while driving.
From February 1, the penalties for illegally using a mobile phone while driving are increasing from a $400 fine and three demerit points to a $1000 fine and four demerit points in a bid to curb dangerous behaviour.
The increased penalties mean that some licence holders, like learners and P-Platers, could lose their licence from just one offence.
Meanwhile, road tolls are also set to jump in Sydney in the new year, with the new M4 rising by 4 per cent to $8.20 for motorists driving from Parramatta to Haberfield, while other roads will be hit by a quarterly 1 per cent increase.
And from January 17, NSW drivers busted throwing lit cigarettes from their car will be slugged with a $660 fine - and the loss of five demerit points, the first time a demerit point penalty has been imposed on this type of offence.
But those penalties will be doubled if an offence occurs during total fire ban periods to 10 demerit points and a fine of up to $11,000.
NSW Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough praised the crackdown.
"This reckless behaviour puts the safety of firefighting volunteers at risk," Mr McDonough said in a statement.
"I hope this move makes people think very carefully about the consequences of their actions next time they go to discard a lit cigarette."
To report someone who has thrown a lit cigarette out the window of a vehicle, contact the NSW Rural Fire Service hotline on 1800 679 737.
HELP FOR FIRST HOME BUYERS
The Prime Minister's $500 million First Home Loan Deposit Scheme - which was announced just before the May election - is due to be rolled out from January 1, meaning 10,000 eligible borrowers will be able to get their foot in the door earlier.
Buyers usually need a 20 per cent deposit to avoid paying mortgage insurance.
But under the Coalition's scheme, participants would only need a 5 per cent deposit, with the Government guaranteeing the rest and covering the mortgage insurance under a special loan.
It will be limited to properties under $700,000 in Sydney, $600,000 in Melbourne and even less in other areas and to single Aussies with an annual income of up to $125,000 or $200,000 for couples.
According to the Herald Sun, energy companies are set to increase Victorian power prices from January 1.
The publication revealed major retailer Origin would lift prices on their discounted market offers by 7.7 per cent - costing the average user an extra $122, while Simply Energy bills will rise an average 10.7 per cent, or $159 a year.
The price hikes matches the 7.8 per cent rise outlined by the Essential Services Commission on Victoria's new default power price, which was introduced in 2019 to help consumers by providing a competitive base offer.
People who lift the lid on dodgy practices will be better protected from New Year's Day, with public companies, large proprietary companies and corporate trustees of APRA-regulated superannuation entities ordered to have a whistleblower policy in place from that date on.
That policy must include information about the legal protections available to whistleblowers and how a company will investigate claims and protect whistleblowers from harm.
PAID PARENTAL LEAVE
The work test for Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay is changing - and it could affect you if your child's birth or adoption is on or after January 1, 2020.
You currently can't have more than an eight-week gap between each work day in the work test period.
This will increase to 12 weeks if your child's birth or adoption is on or after January 1, which means to meet the work test, the gap between each work day can be no more than 12 weeks.
There will also be a new Dangerous Jobs provision for Parental Leave Pay which will apply to you if your child's date of birth is on or after January 1.
NO MORE LOCKOUT LAWS
Sydneysiders will actually have to wait a little longer - until January 14 - before the controversial lockout laws are mostly abolished.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the laws would no longer be in place from that date, although they will remain active in the Kings Cross area.
The laws were introduced in 2014 with the aim of reducing the number of late night assaults in the CBD.
However, they have been heavily criticised for negatively impacting Sydney's night-life.
A parliamentary report by the Joint Select Committee on Sydney's Night-time Economy in September advised the Coalition government to lift the laws in the CBD, saying they cost NSW $16 billion a year.
There's good news for Aussies when it comes to accessing affordable medicine on the horizon.
From January 1, the threshold to receive free or further discounted medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme will be lowered by 12 scripts for pensioners and concession card holders and the equivalent of two scripts for non-concession card holders.
GOVERNMENTS TO PAY UP
In the new year, federal government agencies will begin paying e-invoices on contracts valued at up to $1 million within five days - or face interest on any late payments - as long as both the supplier and agency use electronic invoicing.
According to finance minister Mathias Cormann, it will be a "game-changer" for small businesses with contracts with a federal government agency.
The ACT is on track to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy on January 1, 2020, which would make it the eighth jurisdiction in the world with a population above 100,000, to achieve this.
"States and territories are driving the transition to a renewable energy future, in the face of the federal government's lack of leadership. As a result, several states and territories have declared the intention to go it alone on renewable energy policy," Climate Councillor and energy expert Greg Bourne said earlier this year.
Eligible people with multiple employers will be able to apply to opt out of receiving super guarantee (SG) from some of their employers.
This will help you avoid unintentionally going over the concessional contributions cap.
In the New Year, a new star rating system of childcare centres in NSW will be rolled out.
Centres across the state must display a sticker near their front entrance which clearly shows how many stars it received after being examined.
The system ranks centres based on whether they are exceeding the national standard, meeting it, working towards it or if significant improvement is necessary.
Australia's Clean Energy Regulator has revealed changes to postcode zones for solar power system installations.
It is believed these changes will affect the amount of subsidy on offer to certain regions, although the majority of postcodes will not be affected.
To find out if it applies to you, visit the AEMO website.
The NSW Government has committed to 70,000 fee-free traineeships, meaning that from New Year's Day, the state government will pay the student fees for lucky new trainees.
In a nutshell, eligible trainees undertaking a government-funded traineeship course on or after January 1 2020 no longer face a student fee of up to $1000.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Dairy farmers feeling the squeeze will get a helping hand with a new code of conduct kicking in from January 1.
The mandatory code is designed to ensure fairer prices, with dairy farmers to be told what they will be paid over the lifetime of their contracts.
Processors will also be prevented from altering the contract price or conditions.