Well the democracy canary in the political coal mine fell senseless to the bottom of its cage this month when the Turnbull Government admitted that a high level of secrecy would surround its extra-parliamentary review of religious freedom in Australia.The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 2017:Public submissions to the Turnbull government's review of religious freedom in Australia will be kept secret, in a marked departure from normal processes, according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's department.The department, which has control of the inquiry, said it would not publish the submissions, which is in stark contrast to ordinary parliamentary inquiries, in which most submissions are automatically released."Submissions to the Expert Panel will not be published online," a department spokesman said in an emailed statement. "However, where individuals provide consent, submission extracts may be included in public materials."Late on Tuesday, however, Mr Turnbull's media team sought to intervene by suggesting inquiry chairman Philip Ruddock would decide if submissions were published. The PM's office then instructed his own department to issue a new statement to that effect.An hour later, the department said decisions on releasing submissions would rest on "whether individuals have provided consent", but that appears impossible, because the online consent form assures people their submission "will not be published in its entirety".It is expected the high-profile inquiry - prompted by fears about the impact of same-sex marriage on religious practice - will attract submissions from Australia's biggest churches, including the Catholic and Anglican archdioceses of Sydney and Melbourne. It presents an opportunity for religious organisations and other advocates to spell out the exact changes to the law they believe are necessary.Mr Ruddock said when contacted on Tuesday that the panel had not discussed the publication of submissions and ultimately it was a matter for the PM's department…..The expert panel - which also includes Australian Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, Catholic priest Frank Brennan and retired judge Annabelle Bennett - is expected to meet for the first time next Wednesday. However, the negative response in mainstream and social media saw the democracy canary revived and placed on life support as the secrecy provisions in the online Consent form have been changed and now only apply to all those submissions received to date."The Expert Panel has not yet determined a final approach to publication of submissions. Submissions already provided will not be published without the agreement of the author" Which given that the majority of submissions would have been received by now means that it is highly unlikely that submissions made on behalf of religious institutions will ever be published by the Expert Panel.NOTEThe submission period for the Religious Freedom Review commenced in December 2017 and ends on 31 January 2018 with the Expert Panel to deliver its findings by 31 March 2018.