Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by the Morbillivirus. The virus is spread from person to person through droplets in the air. Symptoms take between 10 and 14 days to show after infection and include rash, fever, cough, runny nose and inflammation of the eye. Complications of measles include ear, brain and lung infections, which can lead to brain damage and death. Approximately one child in every 1,000 who contracts measles will develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Immunisation rates of up to 95% are required for the sustained control of vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles.
You may have asked yourself, as I have, “So what’s the problem with identity politics? After all, there are marginalized groups in the U.S. and U.K., bigotry is still with us, and why shouldn’t people belonging to those groups agitate to get the rights and treatment they deserve? What were the feminist and civil-rights movements of the Fifties and Sixties besides identity politics?”
The prize recognises Simmons’ research and leadership in nanotechnology and quantum computing. Among other work, in 2012 her research group created the world’s first single-atom transistor and narrowest conducting wires, just four atoms wide.
For Simmons to be awarded 2018 Australian of the Year suggests recognition of recent maturity in quantum computing technology, and its strategic importance for Australia.
Lloyd Hollenberg from the School of Physics at University of Melbourne said of Simmons:
Her contributions in building devices based on single atoms are legendary, and her incredible focus and leadership has defined Australia’s position in the quantum computing technology race.
The rise of quantum computing
In 2017 Simmons established Australia’s first quantum computing company, Silicon Quantum Computing, bringing together representatives of governments, industry and universities in an A$83 million consortium based at UNSW. Simmons is also Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology (CQC2T).
Today, there is an international race to build a quantum computer and the field is highly competitive – nicknamed the space race of the computing era.
A quantum computer is more than a computer with atomic-scale components.
Classical computers operate on binary logic – based on bits, binary digits where 1 or 0 represent the logical states “true” or “false”. A quantum computer, on the other hand, operates on quantum bits or “qubits”, which apart from 0 or 1 can also be in a quantum superposition of 0 and 1. A quantum superposition cannot be interpreted as either 0, nor 1, nor as both 0 and 1, nor as neither 0 nor 1, but rather follows the counterintuive – but mathematically well-defined – laws of quantum mechanics.
The quantum rules allow for more general operations than classical logic. As a result, quantum computers could theoretically solve some classes of problems exponentially faster than the best known algorithms running on classical computers.
One of the early examples of an exponential quantum advantage was in factoring large numbers, which could allow a quantum computer to break the security of widely-used internet cryptography protocols (a security-sensitive application that was responsible for much of the initial burst of interest and investment in the field).
A full-scale quantum computer capable of such a feat is likely still decades away, due to the difficulties in keeping large numbers of qubits in quantum superpositions and avoiding errors. But the field is abuzz with excitement for the impending possibility of achieving “quantum supremacy” – an unambiguous demonstration of a computational task where a quantum computer can outperform today’s best supercomputers.
The prospect of this psychologically important milestone has accelerated investment in the field. From a handful of qubits only a couple of years ago, global players like IBM and Intel have recently announced prototype devices with up to 50 and 49 qubits, respectively – near the threshold where it is believed that quantum advantage kicks in. Google also reports to be working on a 49-qubit device. Much research is now devoted to the search for practical problems, such as molecular simulations, optimisation, or machine learning, where near-term quantum computers may provide a commercially viable advantage.
In this competitive environment, Simmons’ award recognises her leadership in helping Australian industry to capitalise on public investment in the field – there are now three Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence on quantum physics and related technologies. With the establishment of Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd, Simmons reportedly aims to retain intellectual property and boost quantum computing industries and spin-offs in Australia.
The UNSW research program focuses on making qubits out of single atoms of phosphorus or quantum dots in silicon. One advantage of this scheme is that silicon is industrially-compatible, forming the basis for the existing computer and electronics industry. Simmons said that US funding agencies describe the work as “having a two- to three-year lead over the rest of the world.”
In addition to physics, mathematics and biology were recognised in the 2018 Australia Day awards.
The 2018 Australia’s Local Hero is mathematics teacher Eddie Woo. Woo is head mathematics teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School in Western Sydney (the largest secondary school in New South Wales), and runs the popular online learning resource for students Wootube.
The 2018 Senior Australian of the Year is ANU biophysicist Graham Farquhar. Farquhar’s research career has focused on photosynthesis – the process through which plants convert light energy into stored energy – and how we might harness this to solve global food insecurity.
True Country, Kim Scott’s debut novel first published in 1993, has been on my TBR for ages, so I was happy to join a readalong with Emma at Book Around the Corner. But unlike Kim at Reading Matters, I did not love this book. It is powerful writing, and innovative in design and intent, but it is also deeply depressing because it paints such a vivid picture of the dysfunctional behaviours that we are told still plague indigenous communities today.
True Country is a kind of bildungsroman, but one that has been creatively adapted to serve a new purpose. The central character, Billy Storey, does not ‘go out into the wider world’ in search of the self, becoming educated in the ways of the world while the reader looks on. Billy’s search for identity takes him out of the White world that he knows, to the intimate world of…
This is a large format Thames and Hudson paperback (27 cm by 23 cm) which relies on photos and images rather than text. After a short 10-page introduction, almost the whole book consists of assemblies of original images from the avant-garde of the Weimar culture with only a small amount of accompanying commentary. It is a visual history. Just to recap the main events, as they’re important for the arts, the period falls into three parts:
1918-1923 Economic and social chaos
1924-1929 Peace and stability
1929-1933 More economic and social chaos, leading to the appointment of Hitler chancellor in January 1933
The three periods of the Weimar Republic
1. The First World War ended in November 1918. The Kaiser abdicated to be replaced by a civilian government. The two commanding generals Ludendorff and Hindeberg made sure that this civilian government signed the peace thus allowing them forever afterwards to blame civilians for stabbing…
… there is a fundamental point which goes to the heart of this debate that literally no one, to date, seems to have picked up on …
Native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded.
– Excerpt from an opinion piece written by Sherry Sufi, chairman of the WA Liberal Party policy committee, published by Fairfax Media, January 20, 2018
Every January, the debate about the date of Australia’s national day intensifies.
The current date of Australia Day – January 26 – marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of Europeans in Australia. To some Australians, this date is known as Invasion Day, or Survival Day.
The Australian Greens party has renewed its campaign to change the date of Australia Day. Greens leader Richard di Natale has lent his voice to the argument that January 26 marks “the beginning of an invasion”.
In an opinion piece, WA Liberal Party policy committee chairman Sherry Sufi said Di Natale was “attempting to undermine native title by implying that Australia was invaded and conquered”.
Sufi argued that “native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded”.
Let’s look at the law.
Checking the source
When asked for sources and comment to support his statement, Sherry Sufi provided this response:
Disclaimer: My article in Fairfax Media and the correspondence with The Conversation are not statements on behalf of the WA Liberal Party or any of its constituent bodies. The views expressed are my own.
As one of the 193 member states of the United Nations, Australia exists as part of a rules-based world order. Land conquests through war of aggression were only criminalised after World War II.
This prohibition does not apply retroactively. Doing so would throw the entire world map into turmoil.
It applies on future attempts to conquer. The status quo of international borders at the time was deemed ‘frozen’. Lands conquered before the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) are deemed lawful conquests.
So it follows that if Australia was invaded, then it has been conquered. This would technically negate claims to separate land rights for descendants of native populations.
Yet the Mabo decision rested on the presumption that Australia was settled, not invaded. Therefore, native title is safe.
You can read Sufi’s full response and references cited here.
Sherry Sufi’s claim that “native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded” is incorrect.
Native title is the legal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ property rights to Australian land that existed when the English took possession of the territory in 1788. Native title was recognised by the Australian High Court in the 1992 Mabo case.
Had Australia originally been deemed to be conquered – or “invaded” – rather than settled, native title would indeed have existed.
Under English law, if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were conquered, they would have retained their interests in land – or native title – under their own laws, until those laws were overturned by the English.
Responding to Sufi’s argument
As to whether the law deems Australia to have been settled, not invaded, the sources Sufi has cited in his full response to The Conversation are correct.
However, Sufi’s response contains the reason that his claim that “native title can only exist if Australia was settled not invaded” is incorrect.
As Sufi has cited from the 1992 Mabo decision, “the acquisition of property [native title] is chiefly the province of the common law”. Following this, Sufi does not examine the common law rules about land ownership that would apply if Australia had been deemed conquered.
This is the missing link in his original argument, and why the claim is incorrect.
In his article, Sufi justified his claim, in part, on the grounds that “international law recognises all territories acquired through invasion and annexation by force, prior to World War II, as lawful conquests”.
Whether or not that statement in itself is accurate is a matter for an international law expert to determine.
Because even if this is now the status of international law, it concerns the basis of sovereignty in modern times. To the extent that the means of acquiring sovereignty is relevant to native title law, it is sovereignty in 1788 that is relevant.
The High Court of Australia in the 1992 Mabo decision found that an Australian court does not have the power to challenge the basis on which the English claimed sovereignty in 1788.
The status of Australian land law, including native title, is a different matter: it is determined under domestic law, not international law. Australian courts do have the power to alter domestic law, which is what the Court did in Mabo.
So Sufi’s statement about international law, whether correct or incorrect in itself, is not relevant to native title in Australia. The justification does not stand.
Let’s look at the relevant law.
Conquest or settlement?
To assess Sufi’s primary claim, we need to look at what happened when Europeans arrived in Australia in 1788, and at the 1992 Mabo case heard in the Australian High Court, which formed the basis of native title in Australia.
In 1788, England sought to establish itself as sovereign – or the governing body – over Australian territory.
There are a number of ways to become sovereign under international law. In considering what happened in Australia in 1788, Justice Brennan – who wrote the leading judgment in Mabo – focused on the three most relevant. They were:
conquest – the acquisition of a territory by force,
cession – an existing state transfers sovereignty over its territory to another state, or
occupation – taking possession of a territory not under the control of an existing sovereign.
In his article, Sufi talks about the consequences of “invasion”. The international law described in Mabo refers to “conquest” rather than invasion. So that’s the term I’ll use in this FactCheck.
Fact or legal fiction?
Of those pathways to becoming sovereign over Australia, the English considered themselves to be ‘occupiers’.
The concept of ‘occupation’ relies on the land being ‘terra nullius’ – or belonging to no one. In its literal sense, this means there were no prior inhabitants in the territory.
Of course, that was not the case in Australia – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had been living in the country for at least 65,000 years before the First Fleet arrived.
But the arriving Europeans took the approach that Australia’s Indigenous peoples were “too low in the scale of social organisation to be acknowledged as possessing rights and interests in land”, and were deemed not to have laws, or to be sovereign over Australia.
This allowed for the application of what Justice Brennan described as an “enlarged notion of terra nullius”, and for the English to deem that they had occupied the land.
It’s important to note that in this case, terra nullius, and therefore occupation, is a ‘legal fiction’: an assertion of a state of affairs deemed by the law to be valid, even though it may not be factual.
Who owns the land?
Having established sovereignty, England needed to determine what law applied in the new colony – and in particular, what law applied to the ownership of land.
This was a question for English law, rather than international law.
Therefore, if Australia had been deemed to be conquered, or “invaded”, the existing laws of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including laws about land ownership, would have continued to apply until the English repealed them.
However, for territory that had been occupied or settled – as was declared to be the case in Australia – English law would be imported, including English land law. Under that law, the Crown owned all land.
The Mabo decision
These concepts were challenged in the Mabo case in the Australian High Court in 1992.
In the Mabo decision, Justice Brennan stated that the concept of terra nullius ignored the reality of the existing inhabitants of the territory.
The Mabo decision found that the legal fiction that Australia was uninhabited could no longer stand. It acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did have a recognised system of laws.
The Mabo decision did not change the international law position that Australia had been occupied. What the Court did do was create a new English law category for working out what law applied: the territory was settled, but inhabited.
Based on this new category, sovereignty and land ownership were separated. The Crown was no longer automatically the owner of all the land.
Instead, the original occupants of Australia – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – remained the owners until the Crown extinguished their interests, or they were otherwise lost. This is native title.
So, what does that all mean for Sufi’s claim?
Sufi said “native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded”.
In 1788 Australia was, under English law, deemed to be settled. In 1992, the Australian High Court deemed Australia to have been settled, but inhabited. Because of that decision, native title as we know it today does exist. Land law stopped being English land law, and became Australian land law.
Had Australia been deemed to be conquered (or “invaded”), the interests in the land – the native title – would also have existed. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would have continued to own the land until the Crown extinguished those interests.
Either way, whether Australia was deemed to be “invaded” or settled, Australian land law would recognise Indigenous interests in land – that is, it would recognise native title. – Kate Galloway
The verdict is clearly correct.
It is not the case that “native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded”.
As this FactCheck points out, it is to the contrary. It has long been a rule of English law that in a colony acquired by conquest the former laws continue to apply until altered by the conqueror, and rights to land continue until they are extinguished.
Some elements of the Mabo decision have been contested by scholars. This is not one of them. It is very clear that native title could exist if Australia were characterised as conquered. – Leon Terrill
The Conversation’s FactCheck unit is the first fact-checking team in Australia and one of the first worldwide to be accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the US. Read more here.
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