31 July 2007


"When people forget their fear they will rediscover their compassion” – so says the wife of anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce in a scene from the recently released film "Amazing Grace". She is trying to encourage her husband to continue his fight to end British participation in the slave trade at a time when the tide of public opinion seemed to be running against him.

Some of the issues raised in the film have contemporary resonance.

Quite apart from the reality of modern day forms of the slave trade, the above quotation may be particularly applicable to Australia where fear of terrorism or fear of people who are different to ourselves seems to have driven our response to those seeking asylum in our country and contributed to a disregard for human rights.

The treatment of Dr Haneef Mohamed, with its echoes of the David Hicks case, is the latest example, and one which riases further questions about Australia's current migration and anti-terror laws.

The portrayal of the power of vested interests in opposing Wilberforce’s reforms because ‘they would be bad for the economy’ may also sound familiar to many Australians.

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