More than 70 staff at the Australian Valuation Office will be made involuntarily redundant, according to Senate estimates hearings this week, sparking claims about broken promises regarding natural attrition.
The office's closure was formally announced earlier this year, bringing an end to about a century of history as the Australian government's primary source of advice and information on valuations of real property, intellectual property and non-current assets.
The office ceases to exist at the end of this financial year and the final 100 staff of the formerly 198-strong entity will leave then, or in early July, after loose ends are tied up.
More than 40 AVO staff have taken voluntary redundancies. Another 31 have expressed interest in voluntary redundancies and 10 of the original 198 AVO workforce were contractors whose contracts ended quickly after the announcement of closure. Three AVO employees have swapped redundancies with colleagues in the Australian Tax Office. One AVO staff member has died.
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Fraser MP and the opposition's assistant Treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh said ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja repeatedly promised before the election the Coalition would only cut jobs from the public service through natural attrition, not through redundancies.
"We now know that, by the end of the month, dozens of AVO staff will be forced out the door," Dr Leigh said.
"How can Canberrans trust anything the Liberals tell them now?"
Mr Seselja fired back by saying the closure of the AVO was a hangover from Labor's long-standing efficiency dividend.
"The former Labor government, which Andrew Leigh was part of, applied efficiency dividends to many government departments," Mr Seselja said.
"These departments in turn reduced their spending on the AVO – like the Department of Human Services, which reduced its spending by 50 per cent.
"Their work alone accounted for 80 per cent of AVO revenues. Andrew Leigh and Labor made a decision, which they did their best to hide, to cut 14,500 public service jobs and these decisions are now flowing through the bureaucracy.”
The Coalition went to the last election promising 12,000 public service job cuts through natural attrition. It has since said it has parked that policy after finding 14,500 "hidden" cuts Labor were making – a claim backed up by the finance department's David Tune but disputed by Labor. The Coalition has since committed to a reduction in the bureaucracy of 16,500.
Earlier, public servants about to be dumped from the office were gagged from venting their feelings to reporters or on social media amid the political row over the office's closure.