Labor attacks Joyce over their own job cuts

FEDERAL Labor has tried to attack Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce over proposed cuts of 220 staff from his department, despite the redundancies dating back to a Gillard Government savings measure.

APN Newsdesk has confirmed public servants in the Agriculture Department were last Friday told of a need to cut their numbers by 220 staff.

It is understood the first on the chopping block will be the frontline border compliance unit, which helps ensure new pests and diseases are not brought in to Australia from overseas.

But Opposition Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon today called on Mr Joyce to guarantee front-line services "will not be adversely affected by government budget cuts".

"DAFF staff received an email on Friday from the new Department Secretary Dr Paul Grimes stating that in the order of 220 voluntary redundancies will be required in coming months," he said.

"I call on the Agriculture Minister to clarify where the cuts will occur and to ensure that Australia's reputation in biosecurity will be maintained."

But the Agriculture Department on Monday confirmed the cuts actually dated to the Gillard Government's moves in the May budget to cut costs ahead of the federal election.

A department spokesman said the "required reductions were not achieved by natural attrition", leading to the move by Dr Grimes to call for voluntary redundancies.

While the job cuts were originally instigated by the Gillard Government, it is understood the Abbott Government is still pursuing the redundancies as part of moves to cut the total public service by 12,000.

Mr Joyce said he was aware of the call, and was "glad to see it is a voluntary call", saying he believed Dr Grimes would ensure the border.

"More than 5100 departmental staff work across Australia undertaking roles that are of critical importance to the country, including at our borders to manage biosecurity risks," he said.

"The Secretary will ensure these functions can continue as he implements the staffing reduction necessitated by Labor's last efficiency dividend."

The department has not ruled out additional redundancies "as the department's budget priorities are identified".