The Treasury Department is forcing nearly all of its public servants, including newly recruited graduates and women on maternity leave, to apply for their own jobs.
Treasury has resorted to a "spill and fill" to sack about 40 of its bureaucrats, with the central agency conceding that its voluntary redundancy process has run out of steam.
The department's boss Martin Parkinson warned that very few are safe in the 960-strong department and that public servants on secondment to other departments, bureaucrats on study leave and all other "inoperative" staff had to get their job applications in by July 25.
Dr Parkinson, who himself will leave Treasury in December, said he had been forced into the "unprecedented" redundancy process after the latest drive for voluntary departures failed to deliver the cuts needed for "future requirements of the department".
Jobs lost among staff on maternity leave, leave without pay, study leave or secondment to other organisations will be counted on top of the 40 from jobs targeted by the cull, according to an all-staff memo from the departmental secretary.
Dr Parkinson also says he intends to cut up to nine senior executives and one executive board member.
Treasury workers could submit documents of up to 450 words stating their cases for survival and senior executives and middle managers have been banned from reading applications or coaching junior staff on how to defend their jobs.
There will be no internal right of review for workers deemed "excess" by a high-level panel.
Only temporary staff and public servants from other departments seconded to Treasury will be safe from the redundancy round.
Dr Parkinson's memo said 133 public servants had taken redundancies since his department began shedding jobs in 2012, and that his top brass were not immune to the pain, with the ranks of senior executives reduced from 96 to 87 and more cuts on the way.
The bosses will mostly be leaving via the APS's generous "incentives to retire" scheme.
The move is part of the secretary's wider plan to cut one in three positions by 2017, as The Canberra Times reported in March.
"The decision to proceed to an involuntary redundancy process across all APS and EL classifications has been very difficult, and I can assure you that the decision was only made after a great deal of consideration," Dr Parkinson wrote to his workers.
"Beyond the obvious and pressing constraints of Treasury's budget, our decision was also informed by the need to avoid larger reductions in future financial years."
The main public sector union, the CPSU condemned Treasury's plans on Wednesday with the deputy national secretary Alistair Waters called for the department to rethink its position.
“This ‘spill and fill’ is heavy-handed and unnecessary," Mr Waters said.
"It has never been done in Treasury before and risks doing long-term damage to this important agency.
"Treasury can and should be doing more to help retain these workers in the APS.
"These people have highly sought after skills which should not be lost from the service.”