As many as 4500 more public service jobs could be cut if the Turnbull government continues its efficiency dividend push in next month's federal budget, the peak public service union has warned.
After 15,000 job cuts since the Coalition was elected to government in 2013, the Community and Public Sector Union has used its pre-budget submission to Treasurer Scott Morrison to warn continuing $1.924 billion in planned efficiency savings announced in 2016 would see between 3000 and 4500 additional jobs go.
The figures are based on government data showing about 55 per cent of previous efficiency cuts have come from cuts reductions to the federal workforce, suggesting that planned savings by 2020 would result in $972 million more in jobs lost.
The union said the full impact on staffing levels would depend on how $500 million in savings from government transformation efforts is spent.
"After years of governments cutting public sector funding, the public service is struggling to provide the level of services that the Australian community deserves," the submission said.
"The government's decisions have led to the debacles of the 2016 Census and the Centrelink automated debt recovery scheme. There is now increasing community awareness and dissatisfaction with the impact of public sector cuts and the governments who deliver those cuts."
The government receives hundreds of submissions to the budget process - with business groups, unions, community organisations and non-profits laying out their wish lists for the year ahead. Some proposals are adopted, while others are ignored.
The CPSU called for the May 9 budget package to "begin to repair substantial and unsustainable damage done to the public service" through reversing the efficiency dividend, arguing public sector wages remained just 6.1 per cent of government spending in 2016-17.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Public Service Commission declined to comment on the submission.
Staff numbers in the Australian Public Service grew last year for the first time since 2012, up by 3518 to 155,771 positions.
The growth was probably caused by the end of the Abbott government's hiring freeze imposed on departments and agencies, preventing them from recruiting staff unless there were exceptional circumstances.
The Coalition has cut about 15,000 public service jobs since 2013. Redundancies were about triple the usual rate in that period as the government retrenched more than 9100 staff to help reach its target.
The federal bureaucracy employed fewer people in June 2015 than in the last months of the Howard government in 2007. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows a 15.8 per cent rise in the population since June 2007, while public service job numbers have fallen by 0.2 per cent in the same period.
Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann accused the government of showing contempt for public servants.
"You can tell a lot about a government by how it treats its workers – the Coalition government must be judged by what it does for workers, and how it treats its own workforce."
"My concern is for the smaller agencies, particularly our national institutions.
"We're not cutting into fat - we're not cutting into bone, we're cutting into vital organs," she said.