Federal government efforts to tackle the enormous ecological destruction caused by this summer's bushfire disaster are being undermined by public service job cuts and hiring freezes, a union has claimed.
The Community and Public Sector Union said a $50 million initiative to support crucial work examining the effect of the fires on wildlife and the environment would be hobbled by the government's restrictions on public service employment.
CPSU National President Alistair Waters said the average staffing level cap, which limits the number of people departments and agencies can recruit, meant much of the $50 million would be blown on hiring expensive contractors rather than having the work done by government agencies in-house.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced that an initial investment of $50 million from the government's $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund will be used to address the plight of species badly affected by the bushfires.
Under the plan, $25 million will go to fund "critical interventions" to help ensure the immediate survival of threatened animals and plants, while the remaining $25 million will be provided to zoos, wildlife rescue organisations and environment groups to help shelter and protect native wildlife and fauna from predators and pests.
The government has appointed Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box to chair a panel of experts drawn from the CSIRO, Zoos Australia, the Indigenous Advisory Committee and several universities to advise on immediate action and to develop a long-term wildlife protection and habitat restoration plan.
Among the panel's tasks will be to map the effects of bushfires on the environment.
The CPSU claimed that such mapping expertise could only be found within the CSIRO and warned such vital work would be hampered by the public service hiring cap.
"The cap prevents the CSIRO from hiring more scientists and instead forces the agency to spend more taxpayer money on expensive labour hire companies and contractors to do work that should be done by government agencies and our highly skilled public servants," CPSU head Mr Waters said.
The union boss called on the government scrap the staffing limit so that the CSIRO could "build capacity and work with other departments as Australia faces the real and imminent threat of climate change".