Another broken promise: Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Andrew Meares
It appears the Abbott government may have broken another promise after public servants were kicked out of the workforce while under its watch, despite the Prime Minister's “no forced redundancies” promise before the election.
An answer to a question on notice shows two bureaucrats at the Department of Industry have already been given involuntary redundancies since September.
It comes as Mr Abbott's government faces an onslaught of criticism about broken promises following its tough budget a week ago, which cut education, health and foreign affairs spending, despite contrary pledges made before coming into office.
On Monday, opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr said the government had gone back on its word, "once again saying it might show how the Coalition's 16,500 job cuts would be implemented".
"I’m concerned that we can expect more of this in the future," Mr Carr said.
As he drummed up voter support in late 2012, Mr Abbott said he wanted to use natural attrition, not forced redundancies, make the changes to the bureaucracy it was touting at the time.
“We are talking about not replacing everyone who leaves," Mr Abbott said.
In the final week of the election campaign in August, Christopher Pyne said: "There is no ambiguity about the Coalition's position. We have clearly stated that, if elected, we will reduce the Commonwealth public service by 12,000 through natural attrition."
Already this month, Australian Tax Office bosses had told staff forced redundancies would be used if needed to cut thousands of positions.
Meanwhile, staff were nervous at other departments such as the Prime Minister and Cabinet, where there had so far been a shortfall of expressions of interest for voluntary redundancies.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said details relating to individual circumstances of the two forced redundancies were private.
"The Labor Government left office last year leaving a legacy not only of debt and deficit, but also secret policy settings expected to result in around 14,500 job cuts across the public service," the spokeswoman said.
"This was never made clear to the Australian people before the election. The hidden Labor job cuts came to light soon after the election, and their impacts have been managed in the months since."
The spokeswoman said the Coalition had been managing the process in a structured and responsible manner.
The same answer to the question on notice showed the number of staff at the Department of Industry had dropped 25 per cent, from 4270 full-time equivalent workers to 3212, since September because of the machinery of government changes.
“As at March 31, 2014, 140 employees have taken voluntary redundancies and two employees have been made involuntarily redundant,” said Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson in response to his opposition counterpart, Mr Carr.
The promise to use voluntary redundancies and natural attrition would be harder to keep during a 16,500-job cull because the bureaucracy was about to be weighed down by an efficiency dividend increased to 2.5 per cent.
Opposition public service spokesman Gary Gray said the efficiency dividend had reached its expiry date.
Mr Gray even went as far as saying the Labor government, under which he served as minister for the bureaucracy, had an over-reliance on the money-saving mechanism.
Even the National Commission of Audit described the efficiency dividend as a blunt instrument.