The workplace disputes racking the Australian Public Service have reached a new level of bitterness with an employee accused of threatening to put a knife through the heart of her department's human resources boss.
A Senate committee has been told the department of Human Services takes the "threat" against its manager of people services, Adrian Hudson, "enormously seriously" but has not called in the Australian Federal Police.
The Labor Party is scornful of the department's claims, saying it is simply making an example of an employee to silence internal dissent.
Sixty departmental public servants were investigated after they forwarded an email, sent in March by Mr Hudson to all staff about DHS's troubled enterprise bargaining process, to "external" recipients.
No action was taken against 40 of the workers for flicking the message on, 13 were issued with "reminders" of the department's rules about emails and five were hit with official warnings.
But one woman could be in serious trouble, accused of forwarding the email to a recipient, understood to be her husband, with her own message added.
"If I had a knife I would like to put it through his heart," the public servant is alleged to have written, referring to Mr Hudson.
In a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra late last week, departmental bosses confirmed they had the capacity to monitor internal email activity but were cagey on providing detail for fear of tipping off corrupt public servants to DHS's investigative capabilities.
The department went to extraordinary lengths last year to hunt down one of its public servants who had publicly exposed DHS peddling false figures on its Centrelink waiting times.
Human Service's manager of shared services Barry Jackson told the senators late on Friday night that he took the "threat" seriously.
"I find that extremely offensive and a threat to our staff that we take enormously seriously," Mr Jackson told the senators.
Mr Hudson took the decision to launch the code-of-conduct investigation against the public servant at the centre of the matter.
"The comments ... were very serious in nature and I took the view that they had the potential to be contrary to the APS code of conduct and as a result that matter was referred for investigation," the senior executive told the committee.
"I took that message to be inappropriate and I believe that, following an investigation, it could be deemed to be a threat."
But Labor's human services spokesman Doug Cameron, sitting on the committee, was not impressed.
"The reason you didn't go to the federal police is because never for one minute did you think that your life was being threatened and what you're doing is setting about making an example of one individual," Senator Cameron told Mr Hudson.