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In the past 12 months, there have been some fairly significant changes to the law.

As is often the case, it's hard to know whether these changes have been a good thing or not for those in the agricultural sector - the end result is they are probably a mixed bag.

At a federal level, the most widespread change to the law for those in the agricultural industry (and any other business for that matter) are the amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009.

The Fairwork Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023 received Royal Assent on December 14.

The bill will enable casual to permanent conversion for employees.

Eligible casual workers working full-time hours will be able to seek to change their employment status to permanent full time, substituting their 25 per cent casual loading for annual and sick leave entitlements.

The bill will also criminalise wage theft, with a new federal offence and significant maximum jail terms and financial penalties able to be imposed if the employer is deliberately underpaying its workers.

The bill also criminalises industrial manslaughter and increases the maximum penalties under federal occupational health and safety laws.

In addition to the legislative changes, an important change federally in the past 12 months was to unfair contract terms, in particular standard form fertiliser contracts.

The changes came about as a result of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission identifying potentially unfair contract terms in standard form fertiliser contracts.

As a result, suppliers in the fertiliser industry have amended their contracts.

This is a clear win for those who purchase fertiliser products, although not necessarily a 'cure all' with every provision in a contract.

Locally the most significant change has been the introduction of the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act.

The impact of this act is much more of an unknown, but it has the potential to have widespread ramifications for the agricultural sector, particularly for those who have a pastoral lease.

The act allows the state government to establish areas of 'designated land', which can be used for the purposes of establishing hydrogen and renewable energy (including solar and wind) operations.

The act provides for various types of licences, which can be obtained to permit a range of activities on designated land.

In the next 12 months, it will be interesting to view the impact on the way landowners/pastoral lessees and renewable energy companies negotiate with each other.

It is presently a purely commercial transaction between the landowner/pastoral lessee and the renewable energy company.

If the landowner/pastoral lessee and renewable energy company can't reach agreement on satisfactory commercial terms, the renewable energy company is not able to proceed with erecting a solar farm or wind turbines.

Whether this continues or changes under the act will be something for everyone to keep their eyes on.

This article was published in the December edition of The Stock Journal.