Arguments around increased government retention of personal data focus too heavily on privacy and not child safety, a Uniting Church advocate says.
A Senate inquiry is reviewing the government's mandatory metadata retention scheme, which requires telecommunications companies to store the web data of its users for two years.
Dozens of government agencies can then apply to access the data.
"Our experience of working in this area is that access to the metadata is absolutely essential for law enforcement," Dr Mark Zirnsak told the committee on Friday.
"One would assume the only human rights that matter are the right to freedom of expression and rights to privacy.
"There is the ignoring of other basic human rights such as the right to be protected by child sexual abuse."
Dr Zirnsak said metadata helped capture paedophiles and their extended networks.
But he warned metadata use should be proportionate to the crime and not used to pursue unpaid parking fines.
Brisbane and Sydney councils have previously done exactly that.
"The whole regime is being called into question because of that," Dr Zirnsak said.
He also weighed in on debate about the data regime's impact on journalists and whistleblowers.
Dr Zirnsak said media companies should not be the ones to dictate what's in the public interest, particularly given some pursued internal leaks while outwardly advocating for greater protections.
The Human Rights Law Centre told the committee the laws should be wound back from allowing access to 87 government agencies to just 22.
Lawyer Alice Drury said data should only be used to investigate serious crimes like child sex abuse.
Australian Associated Press