Malcolm Turnbull

Religious freedom: Guests promised 'no record' of secret meetings with Ruddock's panel

Former immigration minister Philip Ruddock will review Australia's protection of religious freedom. (AAP) Source: AAP

One legal expert invited to speak at the closed meetings has criticised the religious freedom review for a lack of transparency.

Religious groups, charities and other invitees have been urged to speak "openly and honestly" in closed meetings with the government's review of religious freedom laws - with a promise their testimonies will not be recorded.

The review's secretariat has emailed the guests invited to the upcoming meetings, telling them while the discussion would "inform the work" of the review, there would be no transcripts of their comments.

"Panel members and the Secretariat will take notes but there will not be a formal record of the meeting," the email seen by SBS News read.

Monash University legal expert Luke Beck was invited to one of the meetings in Sydney on Wednesday and tweeted a screenshot of the email, revealing the promise that conversations would not be recorded.

Mr Beck said the process was a "troubling departure from the standard law reform inquiry practice of public submissions and public hearings".

He also accused the review of designing the meetings to be impervious to Freedom of Information laws as there would be no written records to request.

But the review's website said the decision was made to provide a "safe" environment for guests to voice their opinions.

"Rather than holding open public meetings, the panel has chosen to hold meetings with individual stakeholders or small groups to give people an opportunity to share their views openly and honestly with the panel in a respectful and safe environment," the website read.

The religious freedom review was called by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the midst of the same-sex marriage debate last year.

It is chaired by former Liberal minister Philip Ruddock who presides over a panel that includes well-known Jesuit priest Frank Brennan.

Formal written submissions to the review will be released publically and will inform the panel's final report, which may recommend changes to Australia's anti-discrimination laws.

But the review is also holding at least 12 closed meetings with "individual stakeholders" and "small groups" around the country.

The list of invitees and the exact locations of the meetings have not been released.

Meetings have already been held in Canberra and Perth and will soon be held in Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne Brisbane and Adelaide.

Various church groups, including the Freedom for Faith religious lobby group, are calling for stronger laws to give church-run organisations like schools and retirement homes the right to hire and fire staff in accordance with religious values.

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