Federal shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh and ACT Liberal shadow minister for women Giulia Jones have expressed concern over the move to include women on maternity leave in "unprecedented" involuntary redundancies at the Treasury Department.
Dr Leigh urged the department to ditch the plan, saying the involuntary round was evidence of the Abbott government "breaking an election promise".
In October 2012 Tony Abbott said that “I really want to stress that we are not talking about forced redundancies, we are talking about not replacing everyone who leaves, that’s all” in reference to the public service.
Ms Jones said: “it is disappointing to hear that women on maternity leave could be forced to reapply for their jobs at Treasury."
She said the move was concerning "given recent research which shows a huge proportion of pregnant women are discriminated against in the workplace", referring to an Australian Human Rights Commission report released on July 25.
Dr Leigh said in a statement he was particularly concerned by the inclusion of women on maternity leave and new graduates in the round.
Dr Leigh said it was "atrocious that new mums on maternity leave should face the stress and uncertainty of having to reapply for their jobs at a time when they should be free to focus on their families and their own wellbeing".
Dr Leigh was on secondment from the ANU to the Treasury Department for a period in 2008 and 2009.
"This is not an issue I'm involved in because my mates are hurting; I'm involved in it because it damages Australia," Dr Leigh said.
He said he feared that the government's commitment to cutting the public service was a barrier to keeping talent.
"It is appalling that any highly skilled Treasury employee would be forced out of their job because of the Abbott government’s ideological commitment to slashing the size of the public service," Dr Leigh said.
Dr Leigh also voiced concerns that the inclusion of mothers on maternity leave might not be legal, saying "the Abbott government must comply with the law" and "guarantee that no Treasury worker who is currently on maternity leave will be forced into involuntary redundancy through this process".
The federal government's May budget flagged widespread cuts across the public service.