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Agriculture Department head Paul Grimes sacked after dispute with minister Barnaby Joyce

The Abbott government has sacked a fifth departmental secretary – the Agriculture Department's Paul Grimes – following a dispute with his minister, Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying his secretary would step down.

"This follows a report under the Public Service Act 1999 from the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with which Dr Grimes agreed, that a relationship of strong mutual confidence between the secretary and myself was not a realistic prospect," the minister said.

"I would like to acknowledge the longstanding contribution of Dr Grimes to public administration in this country at the Commonwealth, state and territory levels."

Dr Grimes has been on leave since last Friday after seeking a specially convened Senate estimates hearing to address concerns about a Labor freedom of information request relating to a Hansard correction by Mr Joyce's office last year.


Mr Joyce blamed staff for changing the official record of parliamentary proceedings after he was accused of misleading Parliament over a statement on drought support for farmers.

The sacked secretary told his staff on Friday his appointment had been terminated.

"While naturally disappointed to be leaving the department, I fully accept this decision," Dr Grimes said.

"In particular, I have agreed that the minister would be better supported at this time by a new secretary with a different background and set of policy skills."

Dr Grimes, who had been a department head since 201, also said he had failed to "properly take care of my work and private life balance over recent years", and would take time off for the next few months.

He is the fifth secretary to be sacked by the Abbott government, which dismissed three department heads immediately after it won office – Agriculture's former secretary Andrew Metcalfe, Resources' Blair Comley and Industry's Don Russell – and asked former Treasury head Martin Parkinson to leave after about a year.

with AAP