Cheat Sheet: Major Legislative Reforms of 2014

If you’ve had your head stuck in files while 2014 passed you by, there’s a chance you might not have heard about some major legislative reforms that could affect your clients’ rights and responsibilities. Luckily, we’ve prepared a cheat sheet on key developments from 2014 that you need to know about.

Legislation that went under the knife this year included the usual suspects, as well as a few areas that haven’t seen reform for some time. These are the changes you should know about as they may impact legal outcomes for your clients or the way you practice law.

In case you missed them, here are the highlights.

1. Privacy

In March 2014 amended privacy legislation brought into effect a set of 13 harmonised privacy principles to regulate the handling and distribution of personal information, replacing both the NPPs and IPPs. These new provisions alter the way government and private-sector organisations are allowed to use and disclose personal information in relation to direct marketing and cross-border activities. They also bolster the powers of the OAIC and introduce a stricter regime for credit reporting, including civil penalties and a dispute-resolution scheme.

2. Federal anti-bullying laws

Amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009, which commenced 1 January 2014, mean that bullied workers can lodge a claim directly with the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop bullying behaviour in the workplace, eliminating the requirement to pursue internal avenues of dispute resolution first. The changes also broaden the scope of what constitutes bullying behaviour and impose pecuniary penalties for employers who don’t take appropriate action.

3. e-Conveyancing

In April, the last of Australia’s states joined the party by adopting uniform legislation governing the implementation and use of e-conveyancing platform PEXA. In October, registered firms commenced nationwide operations on PEXA, performing entirely online ‘paperless’ conveyances.

4.  Tax

Following the repeal of the carbon tax in December 2013 as part of the federal government’s ‘red tape reduction’ initiative, 2014 saw the axing of the Small Business Tax Assistance Act, as well as the requirement to file individual tax returns for an estimated 1.4 million taxpayers with ‘simple affairs’. The government also jacked the Medicare levy and superannuation rates on July 1.

5. Copyright

Recommendations released by the ALRC in February this year foreshadow imminent changes to copyright legislation. Recommendations included the incorporation of a new and flexible ‘fair use’ exception designed to replace a number of existing specific exceptions to copyright infringement, as well as new specific exceptions for ‘orphan works’ and various materials sent to and from government agencies.

What’s in the pipeline for 2015?

Amongst other things, employees can look forward to the commencement of a fresh national employment services system, new shared parental leave provisions, a health and workplace assessment advisory service and a new tax-free childcare scheme.

The New South Wales and Victorian legal professions can also expect the replacement of their existing acts with the legal profession uniform laws, which modify lawyers’ obligations to clients and afford the Legal Services Commissioner greater powers to regulate the industry.

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