Weekly Digest – 15 December 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Moderna and Australian Government Partnered to Bring Manufacturing to Australia

Moderna, Inc. announced an agreement with the Australian Government to build a state-of-the-art messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine manufacturing facility in Victoria, including access to Moderna’s mRNA development engine. Up to 100 million mRNA vaccine doses could be produced in Australia each year.

This collaboration will support Australia with direct access to rapid pandemic response capabilities.

Visa Holders Now Allowed to Enter Without Exemption

From 15 December, visa holders will be allowed to enter the country. This means skilled workers and international students will be allowed to come into Australia without needing a travel exemption.

The resumption also signals that a travel bubble with Japan and South Korea can also begin. An estimated 235,000 visa holders and 133,000 international students would be eligible to enter Australia.

WA Border Reopening

Western Australia will reopen its borders at 12.01am on 5 February. For domestic travel, you can find information about state-by-state travel restrictions here. Meanwhile, for international travel, you need to check the official advisory of the country you’re visiting.

Depending on the location, you may need to obtain a PCR test, show proof of vaccination, quarantine, or purchase insurance. Australia has a travel bubble with Singapore, which means West Australians can travel to the country without having to quarantine.

Queensland Opens Its Borders

Queensland has reopened its road borders to all interstate travellers since it has passed the 80% mark for COVID-19 double vaccination.

Before being allowed to enter Queensland, you need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result received within the previous 72 hours. In order to be considered fully vaccinated, you must wait until at least a week after receiving your second dose.

Also, you will still need to complete a Queensland Entry Pass whether you plan to enter by air, road, rail, or sea, including from non-hotspot areas and the border zone. A Queensland Entry Pass is valid for 14 days.

Four Northern Territory Communities Enter Lockdown

Four remote communities in the Northern Territory have entered a lockdown after two local cases of COVID-19 were detected. The lockdown in Kalkarindji, Daguragu, Timber Creek, and Gilwi is effective until 2pm on Friday.

Changes in NSW COVID-19 Restrictions

More COVID-19 restrictions in NSW are being eased today, regardless of vaccination status. So what has changed?

  • Rules around masks, QR codes, and requirements for close contacts to isolate for 7 days have been relaxed
  • No limit to the number of people allowed in your home, hospitality venues, and outdoor gatherings
  • Personal services such as hairdressers and beauty salons will have no density limits
  • Indoor recreations, gyms, and sporting facilities will no longer have density limits
  • Community sports events with over 1,000 attendees won’t be required to have a COVID-19 safety plan
  • No travel restriction for people in Greater Sydney or in regional NSW
  • Carpooling is now permitted for unvaccinated people

You can learn more about the restrictions here.

Business Conditions Improve in November

A measure of business conditions improved further in November, amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Sydney and Melbourne. According to the survey from National Australia Bank, its index of business conditions rose 2 points in November to +12, comfortably above its long-run average.

This increase was driven by a 5-point jump in employment to a historically strong +11, while the sales index added 1 point to +16 and profitability held at +8.

Meanwhile, its measure of confidence eased 8 points to +12, but still remained well above the long-run average. The decline followed an 11-point increase in the previous month.

These results show that a strong recovery is underway.

Business Adoption of eInvoicing

More than 1.2 billion invoices are exchanged in Australia every year, with around 90% of invoice processing still partly or fully manual. Replacing a paper or email invoice with an eInvoice will lead to up to around $20 in cost savings.

The government has taken a series of actions to support the business adoption of eInvoicing.

  • In the 2020-21 Budget, as part of the JobMaker Digital Business Plan, the government invested $3.6 million to facilitate eInvoicing adoption across the public sector.
  • In the 2021-22 Budget, as part of the Digital Economy Strategy, the Government invested a further $15.3 million to improve business awareness and accelerate eInvoicing adoption.

The government is now seeking stakeholder views on further ways to support business adoption of eInvoicing, including by consulting on the idea of a Business eInvoicing Right (BER). You can submit responses to this consultation up until 25 February 2022. You can view the submission guidelines here.

Permanent Telehealth to Boost Universal Medicare

The government is investing $308.6 million to strengthen Australia’s primary health care system. Telehealth, which has been transformational to health care delivery, will become a permanent feature. The government is providing $106 million over four years to support telehealth services.

Since early March 2020, more than 86.3 million COVID-19 MBS telehealth services have been delivered to 16.1 million patients, with $4.4 billion in Medicare benefits paid.

$540 Million to Expand COVID-19 Response

The government has invested an additional $540 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including significant funding to keep Australians safe and for COVID-19 testing.

The existing Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD) Support Loan Program will also be extended to continue to support the residential aged care sector.

Support for Farmers to Increase Soil Carbon

The government is working with Australian farmers to help lower emissions and realise new commercial opportunities through soil carbon projects.

According to Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, a new Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) method will make it easier for farmers to generate income from increasing soil carbon.

This could create a new revenue stream of more than $2.4 billion annually for farmers and land managers. The Long Term Emissions Reduction Plan also shows increasing soil carbon could reduce our emissions by between 4 and 16%.

FBT Implications of Christmas Parties

As the end of the year is fast approaching, businesses are getting ready for their Christmas party and are organising gifts for their staff. With this, it’s important to be aware of the fringe benefits tax (FBT) implications of these.

Because there is no separate FBT category for Christmas parties, here are some ATO guidelines to keep you on track:

  • Exempt property benefits– The costs associated with such events are exempt from FBT if they are provided on a working day, on your business premises, and consumed by your employees.
  • Exempt minor benefits– It can be regarded as a minor benefit and exempt if the cost of the party is less than $300 per employee and certain conditions are met.
  • Christmas gifts– Christmas gifts to employees may be a minor benefit that is an exempt benefit when the value is less than $300.

If you need help with your FBT, get in touch with us today to avoid running into problems with the ATO.

Upcoming Key Dates for December 2021

Here are the upcoming key dates for the month of December:

21 December

  • November monthly BAS due

Get in touch

Contact us if you have any questions or want to discuss the next steps for your business.