Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo: Andrew Meares
The federal opposition has sought to calm fears it will cull the bureaucracy's leaders if it wins office in the September election.
Liberal treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says the Coalition respects the public service's quality and knows ''how to work closely'' with it.
''My starting point is to give them [departmental secretaries] the benefit of the doubt about their intentions and their preparedness to work with us,'' he said on Wednesday.
Former prime minister John Howard sacked six department heads immediately after assuming power in 1996 and appointed an outsider, Max ''the Axe'' Moore-Wilton, to run his department.
The Howard government went on to retrench almost 30,000 public servants in its first term.
Mr Hockey, appearing on the television show Meet the Press on Wednesday, was asked if Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would oversee another ''night of the long knives'' by sacking the agency heads who served the Gillard government.
Mr Hockey defended the Coalition's relationship with the bureaucracy, saying ''the quality of the public service in Australia is very, very good''.
''You can ask any public servant that I worked with, maybe not all of them but most of them, and I think they would say that, you know, we had a very good respectful relationship,'' Mr Hockey said.
''I never did to my senior public servants what, for example, [former Labor prime minister] Kevin Rudd did and left the chief of defence sitting in his waiting room for hours and hours, and I always worked very closely with my heads of department and that's the experience with Tony Abbott and all our team.''
The opposition's intention to shed 12,000 public service jobs has shattered business confidence in the ACT, a Labor stronghold where about 40 per cent of the federal bureaucracy works.
It is widely speculated that an Abbott government will also seek to dismiss several ALP-appointed agency heads, such as Treasury's Martin Parkinson and the Industry Department's Don Russell, a former adviser to prime minister Paul Keating.
On Tuesday, Dr Parkinson responded to Coalition criticisms that the Treasury had become politicised.
''Let me be very clear. Treasury does not provide the government with a range of numbers. Treasury provides its best professional estimate to the government. It is up to the government of the day - and this applies back through history - to do what it wishes with those forecasts,'' Dr Parkinson said.
Mr Hockey defended Dr Parkinson, saying he ''would have expected Martin Parkinson to say nothing different yesterday because he is quite appropriately a servant of the government''.
Mr Abbott also appeared to back Mr Parkinson, saying the Treasury was ''a highly professional department''.