Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

It’s a good time to be in the detention centre business. Just ask Serco

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

The Australian government’s decision to re-open the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia has attracted predictable outrage from previous detainees and refugee groups but missing from the media coverage was any mention of who will run the facility.

British multinational Serco is in charge of the remote, one-time Australian air force base, having won a contract in June last year to manage all of Australia’s immigration centres. After the successful bid of $370 million for five years work, Serco Australia chief executive David Campbell said that “the government’s new immigration detention values very much align with Serco’s own values”.

Labor pledged before the 2007 election to place the detention centres back in public hands.

A spokesman from the Immigration Department told Crikey that when the original contract was signed in 2009 between Serco and the Australian government, the possibility of opening new detention centres was not discussed but he was optimistic the company would comply with the new demands.

When asked about the sexual and psychological trauma suffered by detainees and guards at Curtin during the Howard years, the spokesman said that “policy settings” were different under the Rudd government and more accountability was now possible. No evidence was given for this claim. Curtin was chosen to keep the asylum seekers because “the infrastructure is already there and it’s the best option to house people. It will stay open as long as necessary”.

Serco has received negative press in Britain after cases of neglect emerged from inside its privately run prisons and detention centres. Before Christmas last year the company was embarrassed after guards at the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre refused entry to Anglican ministers dressed as Santa Claus who wanted to give gifts to the children inside. They were regarded as a “security threat”.

Britain’s Children Commissioner released a damning report in April 2009 that found systemic failures of treatment at Yarl’s Wood, violent handling of children and ignoring of serious mental health problems.

But Serco’s contract with the Australian government helped the company’s profits soar 34% in the first half of the year. The organisation is valued at about $5 billion.

“There are more opportunities than we are able to bid for,” said chief executive Christopher Hyman in February. Out-sourcing of government services are booming, especially in Britain.

Hyman, an Indian Pentecostal Christian from South Africa, told the Guardian in 2006 that he was “very passionate about our values and building this company not to make a profit. If you can make it have an impact on society, people’s lives and make it fun, crumbs, then we don’t have to worry about making this profit or that.”

In Australia, concerns over Serco’s management of Curtin are rising. Crikey spoke to UNSW law lecturer Mike Grewcock, author of the book Border Crimes, who said that the lack of judicial oversight of the detention centre was worrying. “In 2001, the then Inspector of Custodial Services for Western Australia described detainees as living ‘in gulag conditions’ and argued that if it had been an ordinary jail the prisoners would not have tolerated such conditions.”

Grewcock acknowledges that the previous company running Curtin no longer manage the centre but “the fundamental relationship between the Immigration Department and the private operators remains the same. The department locks up refugees in circumstances it knows will cause extensive anguish and harm and pays multinational security corporations to make sure the centres operate ‘efficiently’. It is a morally indefensible arrangement.”

Serco was recently fined by the Immigration Department after three Chinese nationals escaped from the Villawood detention centre.

Former Curtin detainee and now Australian citizen, Iranian-born Farshid Kheirollahpoor, says that the relationship between the Howard government and then private manager of Curtin about 2000, ACM, was unhealthy. “ACM realised that they could take financial advantage of the emotional distress in the centre, ” he said. “ACM could ask for more guards and deliberately not manage the problems. The government would then offer more funds.”

Kheirollahpoor saw ACM guards often drunk and beat and abuse detainees. He says the company “wanted to allow the demonisation of refugees and force asylum seekers to act in a way that would make the Australian people hate them”.

Crikey made repeated calls to Serco seeking comment on their exact role at Curtin but no response was forthcoming.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.

one comment ↪
  • Marilyn

    Of course they promised that they would make it detention as a last resort as well.