The head of the public service has flagged likely job cuts following major organisational changes announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens said there would be some "consolidation of back office functions" as a result of the reforms, which include reducing the number of government departments from 18 to 14 and dumping five departmental secretaries.
In a major end-of-year address to an audience of more than three hundred public servants, including 11 of the 14 department secretaries, Mr Gaetjens said the Government's changes would reduce "bureaucratic congestion" and support a "laser-like" focus on service delivery.
Mr Morrison's changes involve the creation of four super-departments: Education, Skills and Employment; Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; and Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Services Australia (formerly the Department of Human Services) will be incorporated within the Department of Social Services.
He said the new structure would be in place by February.
The prime minster denied the restructure was a cost-cutting exercise.
"This has not being done as a savings measure. This has been done as a structural measure to better align and bring together functions within the public service so they can all do their jobs more effectively and help more Australians," Mr Morrison said.
Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Melissa Donnelly said the union would be working to "hold the Government to account" on Mr Morrison's assurances.
"These changes are very significant," Ms Donnelly said, adding that they inevitably raised concerns for her members about what the implications would be for their employment.
In announcing the changes, Mr Morrison did not rule out the possibility of job losses, but sought to put responsibility for any cuts on departmental heads.
"I expect, frankly, all departments secretaries to be realising maximum efficiencies for how they run their departments every single day of the year. That's their job.
"Whatever decisions they take over the next 12 months, two years, five years, they'll take those decisions. They're not decisions that the Government takes."
Mr Gaetjens said the changes were needed to ensure the public service was able to provide the services the country needed.
"Our context is change. So the way we work has to change to reflect that. Because when your environment changes, you adapt," he said.
The public service head said the reforms would "reduce the number of bureaucratic silos, support more integrated services and increase policy coherence".
In remarks that will stoke job fears, Mr Gaetjens added that the reforms would "also accelerate the long-term consolidation of back office functions, enabling the APS to maximise its focus on policy, programs and service delivery, not internal administration".
He said the changes were part of the Government's broader reform agenda for the public service, which was "all about continuing our fight to reduce bureaucratic congestion and maintaining a laser-like focus on our underlying purpose, meeting the needs of Australians".
The government is yet to formally respond to a review of the public service led by former Telstra boss David Thodey, which was handed to Mr Gaetjens in September.
But Mr Morrison said the changes he announced yesterday were "consistent entirely with the thrust of the Thodey Review".
The prime minster's claim was disputed by the CPSU, which said the review's interim report warned against further changes to the machinery of government.
It said morale in the Department of Home Affairs, established two years ago to encompass five security agencies, had plummeted.
The Government is expected to release its response to the Thodey Review next week.