Last week Hamish Tranent had two jobs, both in retail. This week he has none. The 20-year-old Bachelor of Science student is feeling “optimistic” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, but his rental payments are very much at the forefront of his mind.
“I moved down to Hobart this year to study, I just came up – well, to say G’Day to my parents, but I’m not even supposed to be near them at the moment,” he said.
“I’ve got a full-time study load, zero hours, and rent to pay. So, that’s why I’m here.”
Mr Tranent is one of dozens of people in line at the Centrelink office early on Wednesday morning.
By the time the office opens at 8.30am, the lines stretch around the block and up Willis Street.
Hayden Scott, 23, was anticipating an “interesting and humbling experience” ahead of his first interaction with Centrelink.
“I’ve never been on a welfare payment before so I don’t really know what to expect – I just brought all my forms of ID because I didn’t really know what I’d need,” he said.
He lost his job as a full-time apprentice two days previously, along with seven other people from the same Launceston cafe.
“Everyone’s so uncertain at the moment – [my employers] have been on the phone with TAFE and training providers saying, ‘What’s the go?’ and, nobody really knows,” he said.
“I’m a bit worried but I’m OK – ever since I’ve finished college I’ve been working, so I’ve had good luck with jobs so far so I’m hoping when things settle down I’ll be able to get back into the groove.”
The gap between his last two jobs was one day: “I’ve never had this much free time before,” he said.
“What am I going to do once all the housework is done? I can’t go anywhere, so I don’t have any ideas. Maybe Woollies is hiring.”
Steavi Tatnell, 21, also said her primary emotion since losing her job two days ago was “bored”.
“Yesterday was my first day and I was bored already – I hope this doesn’t last too long,” she said. “Going from full-time since I was 14 to nothing – what am I going to do with my time?”
Also an apprentice chef, she had come into the Centrelink office from the East Coast.
“I’m alright – I’ll be alright once I get this sorted,” she said.
Allie Hill, 32, was waiting in the line with her three children: Jack, 12, Jayden, 10, and Ella, 6.
At the same time as become unemployed she has taken over sole custody of the children to protect their 70-year-old grandfather, who is living with their father and avoiding social contact as much as possible.
A sole trader with an at-home salon, she only found out the night before that she needed to cease operations the next day.
She was feeling “pretty devastated, actually”, to be finding herself in a Centrelink queue after working to build from nothing – and succeeding to a point where she was planning to employ other people.
“There’s a lot of pressure, and it’s unknown territory – we don’t know if we’re going to be able to open again,” she said.
“It’s going to be really tough. It wasn’t until last week that I was really like, ‘holy sh-t, I’m going to have to close my business. It’s been a shock to everyone, I’ve got friend in my industry, retail, hospitality, and everyone feels the same. When are we going to be able to open our doors – if ever?”
It’s estimated 22,000 Tasmanians could have lost their jobs during the past week.
People who have lost their jobs are eligible for the Jobseeker payment through Centrelink, which is $565 a fortnight for a single person until April 27, when it goes up to $1100 a fortnight for a single person.
The Jobseeker payment was formerly called Newstart.
The same rate applies for those under 22, but the payment is called Youth Allowance.
People whose partners earn more than more than $1850 a fortnight, or $48,100 a year, are not eligible as of Wednesday – but this could change.
The asset test has also been waived.
But so far, many people who have tried to access Centrelink to apply for a benefit have not been able to do so due to the system not being able to handle the demand.