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.

Australia is increasingly owned by somebody else

My following article appears in Crikey today:

The Crikey/ACIJ series on Australian companies profiting from the foreign aid budget is a welcome discussion of the rapid privatisation of services in Australia and overseas, an area largely ignored by the mainstream media. The market, lightly regulated or not, is simply accepted by most commentators as the best way to order society and generate economic prosperity. There is no indication that the federal election campaign will question these assumptions.

Guy Rundle correctly wrote recently in the The Age that Kevin Rudd (and therefore Julia Gillard) believed “core economic processes could not be challenged, and that social power could not, and should not, be more widely distributed”.

Neither major political party has addressed foreign aid in the campaign but NGOs have called for an annual rise in support. The Greens’ policies demand UN-mandated rises.

My investigation of various levels of Australian society — from detention centres to military services and infrastructure to aid projects — reveals an extreme privatisation agenda by stealth with virtually no public or media scrutiny. The nation is increasingly controlled by unaccountable corporations either based in Australia or off-shore.

The ideology of selling off essential assets or services is bi-partisan and reveals a callous disregard for the lives of those being controlled by faceless businesses. It has become an article of faith for the corporate press to “let the market” decide rather than examining whether services will actually improve and society benefited.

America is increasingly moving down the path of privatising key roads and infrastructure, a trend Australia is seemingly keen to follow. The inherent dangers were clear to see, wrote Mother Jones in 2007, revealing how the general public was often shafted behind those who could afford the expensive toll-roads, hospitals and other important services.

Ageing infrastructure and a lack of government willingness to publicly invest almost guarantee the welcoming arms of corporations with the public interest far from their priority. It’s not uncommon for the same companies being paid to advise governments how to structure privatisation deals then double-dip by investing in the projects themselves.

The lesson from the US, ignored in Australia, is that the rate of privatisation is increasing as government oversight is either undercut or simply overwhelmed. A recent report by humanitarian aid watchdog Development Initiatives found an ever-increasing global budget to deliver aid and conflict relief but little ability to accurately determine where all the money was going and to whom. Waste remained endemic.

I wrote recently in Crikey about the re-opening of the Curtin Detention Centre. Back in May virtually no reporters acknowledged that British multinational Serco, with a history of troubling allegations by detainees in their care, would be running the facility. Nothing has changed since. Only the Greens complained in mid-July with the Labor government’s $100 million boost for expanded detention centres but again there was no mention of the company benefiting from the money.

I continue hearing serious allegations of mistreatment by Serco staff at Villawood detention centre and Christmas Island. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office began an investigation in May to determine whether Tamil asylum seekers were held in detention for too long. Tamils told the Refugee Action Coalition that Serco management on Christmas Island refused them blankets and warm clothes during a hunger strike.

ABC TV’s Hungry Beast briefly mentioned Serco’s role in Australia last year and explained how the company is employed by the ADF, runs prisons in South Australia and Western Australia and is “one of the two favoured bid consortiums for the new Sydney metro rail line”.

It’s little known in Australia that KBR, formerly connected to Dick Cheney’s serial over-charging company Halliburton, controls some of the country’s key infrastructure. The firm faces serious allegations of mismanagement in Iraq, alleged rape of KBR employees in Iraq, gross negligence across the Middle East and use and abuse of private mercenaries in US war zones.

In late July, KBR announced it had won a $US330 million contract design to build a waste-water treatment plant in Melbourne. This project will operate alongside extensive work in the transport and mineral extraction industries, civil infrastructure, defence services and development for Australia’s Asia-Pacific aid work.

There has been no public discussion over outsourcing essential services — especially areas that affect Australia’s economic independence and climate change mitigation — to a company that remains highly controversial and unaccountable to the Australian parliament and people.

It is unquestioned within the corporate press and the Labor and Liberal parties for at least three decades that the reduction of government in the running of a country is a positive development. It’s a global phenomenon and particularly exaggerated in nations throughout the developing world undergoing profound economic, social or environmental disaster.

The other area of growing outsourcing is intelligence and private security operations. The Washington Post’s recent report on America’s out-of-control contracting industry revealed a world of nearly one million individuals with conflicting agendas fighting a marginal and exaggerated terrorist threat around the globe.

While there is no evidence to suggest Australia has followed exactly the same path, Britain and Australia after 9/11 actively colluded with contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan in the transfer of suspected terrorists. There are still many unanswered questions about the groups involved in the illegal rendition of David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib and the alleged role of mercenaries in their extraction.

The most obvious example of private contractors being used with the knowledge of the Australian government is the PNG mining sector. Countless human rights abuses continue to occur on a daily basis.

It’s clear across the Western world that elections are the worst time to have serious debates over government policy. But the privatisation agenda is rarely even discussed in other, less manic times. This isn’t an argument against any and all outsourcing of services but a call to better investigate the reasons behind its rapid expansion across the country.

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, said in 2007 that, “the real legacy of neoliberalism is the story of the income gap. It destroyed the tools that narrowed the gap between rich and poor”.

Australia is changing in our time and almost nobody has noticed.

*Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney independent journalist and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.

5 comments ↪
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  • Mallee

    There was a time in NSW when the state owned the GIO (insurance Company.)

    There was a time when the members owned the NRMA insurance company.

    There wasa time when Australians owned the Commonwealth Bank.

    There was a time when we owned all our roads in NSW.

    There was a time when we owned our all telephonic communications assets.

    There wasa a time when we manufactured batteries, shoes, shirts, nut, bolts and other tools etc, not any more.

    There was a time when you could buy canned sea food processed in Australia.

    There was a time when one could find Australian rice at Woolworths.

    There was a time when we exported steal.

    There was a time in the 1920's when we owned vegemite.

    There was a time when biscuits were biscuits, were bsicuits, not f…n Cookies.

    Get my drift?

    Our politicians have been continualy betraying our country to the planned world government, banks and fascist control by selected corporations owned by the few.

    Notice that the banks are being paid interest for our pink bats, school halls etc and soon for our old 'clunkers'. If only, we could be paid to dump our politicians then  that would be a deal.

    Notice that the corporates want to tax the carbon you breathe out and the Banks want to get the commisions on the trades of your breaths. (Thanks! Julia and Malcolm)

    'Put out you hand, insert this chip suckers.'

  • I see Australia excatly as Egypt.  Its ownd by someone? but run by agencies. the agencies employed by the owner.

    There are many unanswered qestions about the illegal Rendition of Mamdouh Habib, yes but not David Hicks. Hicks was picked up from the War and was an enemy combatant, witness against lots of innccent people, and was charged.

    but Habib was kidnapped and Rendered to Egypt. Since his release without charge after four years under torture. He has being denied procedural fairness.  his parents have fallen ill and died. On each occasion he had been denied the Rights to visit his parents before they passed away, why because the authorities wanting him to either co-oprate as a "SYP" or he will not receive a passoprt.

    The law systmem in Australia and the parlment have their hands tied, thier private lifes is iay risk because of the agencies can damage them.

    The whole Australian people, the media, the government are controled by two words "NATIONAL SECURITY' =NATIONAL CORRUPTION. 

    Mamdouh Habib 

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  • Kitchenslut

    Geez you do attract the fruitloop brigade here! Planned world guvmints and conspiracies everywhere!

    There was a time when we exported steal? I thought as a nation of convicts we imported steal? Oh you mean steel? Mallee we export about a third of steel production. If you can't find Australian rice at Woolies put your bloody glasses on! With any luck we will end our environmentally wasteful use of water for rice and import more! Thank christ we dont still make batteries or my torch would cost as much to operate as a ferrari!

    Most of this dribble on contraccting and security is just economically inconsequential hype. Australia is following the US on tollroads? I thought it was the other way around with Sydney reputed as perhaps the worlds most tolled city and US states only recent late starters?

    Never mind a good myth is always fun ……