Hundreds of public servants are fighting it out for a handful of short-term jobs, suggesting the growing underclass of bureaucrats in insecure jobs will blow out further.
A hiring freeze, the ongoing efficiency dividend and the Abbott government's freshly touted cuts to the federal bureaucracy have shifted the jobs queue from the permanent market to what is called non-ongoing employment.
Departments are now creating their own super lists of potential non-ongoing workers who can be called on to fill holes in the workplace without the open-ended costs of permanent staff.
The Attorney-General's Department has revealed more than 800 candidates have signed up to its temporary employment register since it was opened two months ago.
Almost 500 have joined the National Library's temporary employment register.
Short-term staff lists are also being used by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Department of Human Services, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Cancer Australia and ComSuper.
The latest data from 2012 points to a growing underclass in the Australian Public Service: the number of bureaucrats in insecure jobs has risen even as the overall size of the bureaucracy is reduced.
Non-ongoing staff numbered more than 13,500 in December 2013, a 3 per cent increase from a year earlier, even though some employers were yet to open their temporary employment registers.
Temporary registers are basically calls for "expressions of interest".
Described by the Public Service Commission as a flexible staffing tool, EOIs are used by public service agencies to move staff within agencies or across the APS on either a temporary or permanent basis while often, but not always, keeping them at their current classification level.
More than half of the public service positions available at the moment - 50 of the 95 listings on the APS jobs gazette website - call for expressions of interest or offer the opportunity to sign up to temporary employment registers.
"Under the interim recruitment arrangements agency heads are expected to maximise the use of existing APS staff as a first priority when filling vacancies on either a temporary or permanent basis," an Australian Public Service Commission spokeswoman said.
An Attorney-General's Department spokesperson said its temporary employment register was reopened in April to assist in filling short term employment opportunities principally for roles on the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and various royal commissions.
"The temporary employment register is open for candidates to register a general expression of interest (EOI) for non-ongoing employment within the department by submitting their details and resume using the online recruitment system to enable the Department to access appropriately skilled and experienced individuals at short notice," the spokesperson said.
"Expression of interest on [the APS jobs gazette] are only available to current Australian Public Service employees for non-ongoing vacancies for a duration of no more than 12 months.
"As with all recruitment processes, it is possible that these expressions of interest may not eventuate in a job offer."
The Attorney-General's Department and the National Library would not say how many employees had been recruited through their temporary employment registers.
The National Library's assistant director-general of the corporate services division, Gerry Linehan, said the library had recently moved the advertising of its temporary employment register to APS Jobs rather than relying on individuals to go directly to the institution's website.