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Labor is expected to vote for legislation that will force Australian telecommunications companies to retain call and internet records for all their customers for a minimum of two years.The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security will hand down a report on the legislation, introduced by the government late last year, by 2pm AEDT on Friday at the latest.The proposed legislation would require telecommunications companies to keep a set of customer data for up to two years. This would include call records, assigned IP addresses, email addresses, SMS history, and other communications records that can be accessed by law enforcement. Access to the data would be limited to criminal investigations only, meaning that access to the data would not be available for civil cases. However, it is understood that the attorney-general could allow certain cases to access the data.Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull previously admitted that the data could be accessed in preliminary discovery cases for copyright infringement, such as the Dallas Buyers Club case against iiNet and others.It is unclear whether the government will adopt these recommended amendments into the legislation, or seek to first pass the legislation and then amend it.Labor had been previously pushing to require law-enforcement agencies to seek external approval, such as a warrant, before being able to access the data, but the party appears to have not been successful in negotiating for it to be included through the committee.Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated that he wants the legislation passed in March, and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) is the first piece of legislation due to be debated on Tuesday next week in the House of Representatives (PDF).The legislation will quickly pass the House of Representatives with government votes alone, but will need the support of Labor for it to pass the Senate, where the Greens and some Independent Senators such as David Leyonhjelm are expected to vote against it.
"For Tony Abbott to compare his time as a journalist to now is ludicrous," he told the ABC."Agencies are now given access to an unprecedented amount of data about our lives and work."The volume and type of data now available was beyond imagining in 1980."The MEAA argues the legislation, which mandates a two-year retention period for phone and internet records, is an attack on press freedom."None of the amendments being proposed to the legislation recognise or protect the vital role of journalists and whistleblowers in a healthy democracy," Mr Murphy said."The legislation does not offer protection. It enables persecution and prosecution."The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has responded to concerns from the journalists' union, saying "requests for accessing a journalist's metadata are rare".MPs have begun debating the legislation, which the Government hopes will be passed by the end of next week when Parliament will rise for six weeks.