Finance Minister Penny Wong and Treasurer Wayne Swan in the Treasury this weekend, discussing their budget plans. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The federal government will crack down on the rising number of middle managers in the bureaucracy.
Finance Minister Penny Wong said on Sunday that this week's budget would strip another $580 million from the public service over the next four years.
The middle-management ranks of the service - the executive-level officers - have expanded far more quickly than any other group of staff.
The spending cuts will focus on executive-level 1 and 2 staff and the senior executive service, as well as reducing the physical size of government offices.
Ms Wong said the government would also save money by changing the way it bought goods and services and by streamlining functions across departments.
Public Service Commission data published last week confirmed that 2012-13 had been one of the federal bureaucracy's toughest years in a decade.
The Australian Public Service shed 2608 staff in the six months between June and December last year – the first time in almost 10 years it had shrunk.
Last year's federal budget suggested the government would shed a total of about 4200 full-time-equivalent civilian staff in 2012-13.
Ms Wong's office said on Sunday the job losses would continue this coming financial year, though military and intelligence agencies would again be spared.
"The budget on Tuesday will also show that, for the second year in a row, there's been a small decrease in the number of core public servants, excluding military, reserves and ASIO," the minister's spokeswoman said.
The Rudd government capped the number of SES officers in the public service in 2010, in response to concerns that the top ranks of the bureaucracy had grown too quickly.
A review of this so-called "classification creep", carried out by former senior mandarin Roger Beale, recommended that the cap stay in place.
However, the middle-management ranks of the service – the EL officers – have expanded far more quickly than any other group of staff.
Over the 10 years to June 2012, the number of EL1 staff grew at triple the rate of the overall bureaucracy.
There are now almost 30,000 EL1s in the service and almost 14,000 EL2s. Their median base salary is about $103,640 and $129,460 respectively.
Ms Wong said the government would also reduce the density target for its workplaces from 16 to 14 square metres per employee.
The latest audit of public service offices, carried out in 2009, found almost three in four workplaces had too much room.
That report said the median occupational density rate was 20.6sqm.
The then finance minister, Lindsay Tanner, said meeting the target of 16sqm per work station would save taxpayers about $100 million a year.