Review won’t be ‘conducted in a closet’
Philip Ruddock says he will not allow a review of Australia's religious freedom laws to be conducted in secret and has vowed to make submissions to the panel public.
It comes after the Prime Minister's department initially said none of the submissions to the review would be made public online in their entirety, in a break from usual practice.
Mr Ruddock, a former Howard Government Minister chairing the review, confirmed today that submissions would be published online after the panel met for the first time yesterday.
The panel had agreed with his view the inquiry should not be "conducted in a closet", he said on ABC radio this morning.
"We want to be as open as possible in relation to the approach that we take," Mr Ruddock said.
"We've certainly taken the view that all submissions that we receive will be published, provided there aren't any issues that might be of concern."
"There can be some legal issues, personal comments, matters of that sort, that you have to deal with but we would want to be as open as possible in relation to material that is before us."
Individuals and lobby groups will also have an extra two weeks to submit their view to the inquiry, after the panel decided the January 31 deadline was not enough time.
Submissions will now close on February 14.
The review was launched by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in November in a bid to prevent fears over the impact of same-sex marriage delaying the legislation passing before Christmas.
Mr Ruddock advised this morning that he would be focusing heavily on examples of how the historic change to the Marriage Act would impact religious freedoms.
Fears that service providers, such as bakers or florists, would be forced to cater for same-sex weddings were raised during the campaign after legal battles overseas.
But, with the first major wave of weddings only taking place this week, no examples have yet been highlighted in Australia.
"I don't close my mind to anything," Mr Ruddock said.
"I'm prepared to look at these issues objectively.
"If there is relevant overseas experience that we should have regard to and it's brought to our attention, we'll obviously take that into account."
The review has received more than 100 submissions so far and is due to report its recommendations to government by March 31.
None of the submissions have been published as yet.
Mr Ruddock said he did not intend to seek an extension yet but would consider one if it became necessary.