Environment bureaucrats are deeply worried about their ability to develop a "working relationship" with their minister and are so concerned they have refused a freedom of information request on the grounds it may "complicate" the relationship.
The revelation came as organisers claimed 60,000 people around the country rallied for action on climate change, including up to 2000 who packed into Garema Place in Civic.
Asked for a copy of the brief prepared for Environment Minister Greg Hunt, an official from the Department of Environment said releasing it would have "a substantial adverse effect on the department's working relationship with the incoming minister".
"The public release of confidential advice prepared for the incoming government on a highly sensitive and public policy area such as climate change could complicate the relationship between the department and the incoming Coalition minister," assistant secretary David Williams wrote.
The briefing contained "opinions, advice and recommendations on a full range of issues related to the Coalition's climate change policy".
The department said releasing it would "compromise the new minister's ability to quickly develop an understanding of the department's operations and sensitivities in climate change".
After receiving the briefing, the Coalition abolished the climate change department and merged it with the Environment Department. Mr Hunt instructed the new department to prepare legislation to repeal the Clean Energy Act of 2011.
The act not only set up the carbon tax and emissions trading scheme but also specified a long-term emissions reduction target of 80 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050. If the bill becomes law, Australia will have only one target: a reduction to 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.
The Climate Change Authority (also slated for abolition in a separate bill) is preparing to recommend that the government boost its 2020 target to a cut of 15 or 25 per cent. It is also preparing to recommend an interim target of 50 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030.
The refusal to release the brief came as 130 protests were held around the country, organised by a coalition of activists.
ACT secretary of the United Firefighters Union David Livingstone told the Canberra crowd that more frequent bushfires were putting the lives of his members at risk.
"We have seen more major bushfire events in our life times than our grandparents did in theirs,'' Mr Livingstone said. "That's climate change and we need to do something about it. Firies are on the frontline. They often risk their lives to do it, sometimes they give their lives to do it.''
While the rally featured chanting and placards with slogans such as ''Climate emergency'' and ''Typhoon Tony - we don't want your bushfires'', protesters were also encouraged to ''sign'' a petition by sending text messages from their mobile phones.
Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said the ACT would continue to advocate increasing the use of renewable energy sources.
"Now is not the time to be cowed. Now is not the time to give up hope,'' Mr Rattenbury said. "Here in the ACT we will show how it can be done. We will lead the country. We will inspire others to action. We will show them what is possible.''
The Coalition's carbon tax repeal bills are unlikely to get through the Senate until after June when the Greens and present independents lose the balance of power.
with Peter Jean