Labor says the Abbott government has revoked a plum diplomatic posting for former Victorian premier Steve Bracks.

Labor's Tanya Plibersek has condemned the move and says prime minister-elect Tony Abbott must reveal who he plans to appoint as New York consul-general in Bracks' place.

Ms Plibersek, who is acting foreign minister while Bob Carr travels and until the coalition is formally sworn in, says officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told her about the move on Monday night.

Julia Gillard's government appointed Mr Bracks to the position in May. But incoming foreign minister Julie Bishop vowed to review the appointment.

"This decision is both petty and vindictive," Ms Plibersek said in a statement.

"It is telling that the first act of an Abbott government is to play party politics in international affairs.

"It also reflects a new low in diplomatic practice."

Ms Plibersek pointed out that when Labor won government in 2007 it allowed former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone to complete her posting to Italy.

Labor also appointed former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson as ambassador to the European Union and NATO, and Tim Fischer as ambassador to the Vatican.

"By any measure, Steve Bracks is eminently qualified to serve as consul-general," Ms Plibersek said.

"He is a respected Australian businessman and an eight-year premier of Victoria. He has held senior positions in foreign affairs, finance and superannuation and would have played a central role in Australia-New York business growth."

Ms Plibersek said Mr Abbott must reveal who he intends to send instead.

"Is there a current or former Liberal MP on a promise for a diplomatic role," she asked.