Public service redundancies outstrip resignations for first time since Howard government

Resignations from the Australian Public Service hit a 15-year-low in the past year, casting doubt on the government's claims it was shedding staff through "natural attrition".

An analysis of employment data for 2013-14, published late on Tuesday, shows the attrition rate collapsed to just 3.9 per cent, the lowest since 1998.

There were 4622 redundancies in 2013-14, the highest level since the Howard government's first term, and just 4030 resignations, the fewestsince 1999 and the first time in 14 years that retrenchments outstripped resignations.

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Age retirements, trumpeted on Tuesday as another success story by Public Service Minister Eric Abetz, were below the four-year average.

The Public Service Commission's data does not break down whether redundancies are forced or voluntary, and neither the minister nor Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick were available to be interviewed on Wednesday.

When Senator Abetz published the figures late on Tuesday, he said they provided proof that the government's controversial cuts to its public service were being achieved through natural attrition.

But fewer bureaucrats voluntarily walked away from their jobs last year than at any time since 1999, the last time the public service was culled.

Just 4030 public servants resigned from their jobs in 2013-14, according to the commission, with another 1907 retiring during the year, compared to 4622 retrenchments, the longest redundancy list for 15 years.

Senator Abetz said on Tuesday evening the 53 per cent rate of resignations and retirements compared with redundancies was proof that "the government's policy was moderate and reasonable, as opposed to the scare campaign promoted by Labor".

But the data shows attrition collapsed from more than 70 per cent of total departures in 2012-13 and the overall rate of voluntary departures, 3.9 per cent, was the lowest since 1998.

Last  month's final budget outcome report from Treasury revealed that $580 million of taxpayers' money had been spent on redundancies across the federal government workforce in 2013-14, most of it going to pay off departing public servants.

Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann, who campaigned on public service job losses before the 2013 election, said the figures revealed Coalition promises about natural attrition were meaningless.

"Before the election, the Coalition promised again and again that all public service job cuts would be made through natural attrition alone," Ms Brodtmann said.

"We now know that this promise was absolutely meaningless.

"This is a government that has contempt for Canberra and contempt for the public service.

"We saw the Coalition's form in 1996, and we are seeing it again now nearly 20 years later."

 The main public sector union, the CPSU, accused the minister of spinning the numbers in the commissioner's report.

"The loss of 8000 jobs is massive," the union's national secretary Nadine Flood said.

"It's the largest loss of federal public sector jobs in over a decade and yet Eric Abetz calls it moderate and reasonable. I'd hate to see his version of extreme.

"The Government can try and spin it any way they like but the reality is that the public service is getting hit hard and these figures confirm that. You can't lose that many staff and not hurt services.

"For the first time in 15 years the number of people made redundant is greater than the number of people who have resigned."