AN OFFICE set up to advise the Premier on climate change policy has had its staff cut nearly in half since Ted Baillieu's election.
The climate change branch within the Department of Premier and Cabinet - responsible for dealing with Canberra over carbon pricing and overseeing the state's climate policies - has had its staff reduced from 14 before the 2010 election to eight, documents show.
Andrew Herington, a former director of policy development under Labor premier John Brumby, who received the documents under freedom-of-information laws, said the cut to climate policy staff undermined the government's claim it believed the carbon tax would damage the state's economy.
''The government has made quite a fuss that the carbon price has terrible consequences for Victoria and yet the people who actually do the work on the scheme appear to have, one by one, gone off to other places, and the size of the unit has been reduced dramatically,'' he said.
A government spokeswoman said the passage of carbon legislation through Federal Parliament last year had changed the scope of state-based climate policies. She said this point had been backed by federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet. ''Prior to the current situation, the previous government developed a number of fragmented and ineffective 'initiatives','' spokeswoman Emily Broadbent said. ''During this period, the climate change branch had six more staff compared to now. At present, the branch has eight highly professional public servants working on climate change policy.''
A Labor creation, the climate change branch had primary responsibility for developing the Brumby government's climate white paper, including plans for a staged closure of the Hazelwood brown coal plant, and the 2010 state Climate Change Act.
The Coalition supported the act in opposition, but dropped the target of 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions this decade after an internal review found it would distort the carbon price scheme.
Mr Herington said the staff cut would reinforce a perception that the government did not consider climate change policy development a priority.
He requested access to any documents that set out the climate branch's work program under the Coalition. In response, he received a half-page statement from the department's last annual report.
The climate branch staff cut was made last year, before Treasurer Kim Wells announced 4200 public sector jobs would go.