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.

No transparency in Serco dealings with contractors

My following article, with Paul Farrell, appears today in Crikey:

As we reported yesterday, private company Serco contracts out some of its security personnel to MSS Security, a company owned by an Indian security company with links to Lehmann Brothers. By outsourcing to other companies, it’s possible for Serco to distance itself from criticism and in turn, the Government can blame Serco for mismanagement and fine them accordingly (that provision is written into the contract).

Equally, that provision means that Serco isn’t necessarily compelled to report all perceived infractions due to its avoidance of financial penalties.

Alongside the PR games, there are potential legal benefits for Serco by outsourcing these services further. When Crikey visited Villawood recently, MSS Security guards were patrolling the visitors’ area.  The guards were clearly identified as MSS staff, not Serco officers, wearing an MSS uniform and ID card. One guard also said he only worked occasionally at Villawood and worked at several different places in NSW with MSS.

This degree of flexibility in employment, as well as the identification as MSS guards rather than Serco staff, may mean that the relationship between Serco and MSS staff could be deemed as that of an independent contractor rather than employees.

This is an important legal distinction. If the MSS staff were indeed held by a court to be contractors in this instance, it limits Serco’s vicarious liability for its actions if MSS staff were involved in conduct that resulted in tortuous legal action.

Of course, it’s impossible to be certain about the exact nature of the agreement with Serco and MSS and what’s required of subcontractors under the detention centres contract because documents relating to it are deemed commercial in confidence.

It also raises issues about the training of security staff. In July an MSS Security guard was caught in bed with an asylum seeker in a Darwin residential complex.

At the time, a Serco Asia spokesperson said that MSS security guards had to have a minimum of Certificate II in Security Operations.

But a Certificate II is the bare minimum entry-level requirement for unarmed guards and crowd controllers.

These are by no means local issues and the accountability of private companies running prisons and detention centres is a global concern. Recently an Angolan man, who was being deported home from the UK, died on a plane at Heathrow Airport and security company G4S guards have been accused over his death.

Now another related incident has come to light, with G4S being accused of mistreating a Colombian man as he was being deported from the UK.

As a result of these recent controversies, G4S lost its deportation contract with the British government last week but the company is being embraced elsewhere by the Tory-led administration, renting out custody cells to police forces that “will cut costs by centralising facilities”.

G4S formerly held the Australian detention centre contract before Serco took over in 2009.

Serco itself has also been criticised over its treatment of prisoners in the UK in a recent report into the Yarl’s Wood Prison and excessive violence in other privatised institutions in the UK.

The detention business is a multibillion dollar industry and Serco and G4S have proven in the UK, under Labour and the current Tory-led Coalition, that privatising detention is a profitable enterprise.

There is no evidence of this trend reversing; if anything, under David Cameron’s radical cost-cutting exercise, outsourcing will only increase, with the private sector relied upon to fill the gaps with a dwindling public service.

The Gillard government’s recent announcement of an expansion of current detention centres around the country and opening of new ones means now more than ever Serco’s role, and the role of outsourcing, must be questioned as tax-payer money is being spent with no transparency.

*Paul Farrell is a Sydney-based freelance journalist. Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and author.

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