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.

Warning, NSW: companies like Serco aren’t your real friends

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

The New South Wales election is weeks away and privatisation is a key issue of concern for voters. Liberal opposition leader Barry O’Farrell, the likely next premier, leads a team that openly talks about restructuring the ways in which public assets could be sold.

It’s possible that O’Farrell will look to Western Australia for inspiration. But the Liberal government of Colin Barnett is facing public opposition to increasingly working with British multinational Serco in its plans to outsource key public services.

United Voice union is leading a campaign to fight the government’s expected $3 billon contract with Serco to privatise Fiona Stanley Hospital. Public protests in Perth are on the increase and union leaders tell Crikey that the sell-off move has happened without any public consultation.

Hospital support workers are introducing work bans and refusing to remove linen or rubbish, all without affecting patient care. The WA Industrial Relations Commission has ordered the union to stop the bans.

Further insecurity among staff occurred late last year when Serco acknowledged it might introduce robots to replace humans at Fiona Stanley Hospital. And Perth’s Sunday Times obtained a document that showed Serco was likely to gain access to medical records.

It’s not dissimilar to recent reports that the leading American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin will be recording and processing census information this year in Britain, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. As one activist wrote: “Having companies like this deal with public census data is rather like having Monsanto carry out your gardening.”

Many West Australians told me last week in Perth they worried about Serco gaining access to intimate, personal details and wondered why the Barnett government was so keen to allow them to do it. Liberal politician Troy Buswell has praised Serco in parliament as a model corporation and reportedly meets regularly with Serco representatives in the state.

The truth remains that Serco is a deeply troubled company. A 2006 British investigation found that Serco was part of a consortium that had milked taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars in the running of hospitals in Norfolk and Norwich.

Western Australia’s Community and Public Sector Union secretary Toni Walkington tells Crikey that both Essential Media Communications and her own union have conducted opinion polling this year and found overwhelming public backing to keep public services (prisons, child protection, etc) in public hands.

“The main driver for privatisation is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA,” she said. “The organisation repeatedly calls for more contracting of the private sector to deliver public services. Premier Colin Barnett is a former CEO of the CCIWA.”

Walkington argues that a wealth of research backs the claim there is a reduced standard of services when privatised, as well as the profit motive superseding fair treatment of clients.

Take the firm’s running of the country’s detention centres. Activists in Perth last weekend detailed to me an alleged litany of breaches by Serco in remote centres where public access is close to impossible. These allegations included physical abuse of refugees, massive over-crowding, stealing of toys for children if Serco guards believe they should be more “equitably distributed” and deep mental trauma of largely untrained Serco staff unable to cope with asylum seeker frustrations.

Critics say all the federal government does is think of ways to fine Serco for alleged “breaches” rather than dealing with the structural problems.

Walkington worries it will be no different in other workplaces if the company expands its presence in Australia. She tells Crikey the lack of accountability and locked-in contracts will only increase if details about hospitals and other services can’t be accessed through the parliament: “The WA government continues its declared agenda to reward its business supporters through lucrative contracts to deliver public services despite clear public opposition and early adverse consequences for our community.”

In Western Australia, the Labor opposition has also long backed privatisation though now claims it is less supportive than the Liberals. Like in NSW, this creates a political atmosphere of bi-partisan desire for corporate largesse.

The Barnett government is currently considering a massive expansion of privatised services, including the parole system. There are real concerns that a profit-driven company, as has happened with similar programs in the US, will deliberately exaggerate client problems to gain more money.

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee spokesman Marc Newhouse told me last weekend in Perth that privatised prisoners could become a valuable commodity for Serco and the state would have little ability to discover whether cover-ups were taking place (as happens routinely in the detention centre system).

But none of these issues apparently bother the Serco hierarchy. Chief executive Christopher Hyman told London’s Daily Telegraph last week that overseas markets will “underpin” growth in the coming years as David Cameron’s government cuts costs.

Around 40% of Serco’s revenue comes from overseas projects, including in Africa, Australasia and Asia. According to Hyman, “they [international governments] love seeing the Brits wherever you go. They think we have clever ways of doing services.”

It was a position shared by David Brockton from Espirito Santo. “Serco’s relatively low margin and the critical nature of its front-line services should ensure it can continue to generate attractive earnings growth,” he told the Telegraph.

Britain’s Channel 4 program Dispatches discovered in a new report that the heads of companies such as Serco and G4S are making a killing from the outsourcing of public services, seemingly immune from the large swathe of government cuts as governments create a market for outsourced services.

With the Orwellian named Serco Institute “advising” the NSW Liberals on ways to manage the state’s budgetary issues by sacking many in the public service and privatise services for greater “efficiency”, pro-privatisation sharks are circling O’Farrell’s office.

“Privatisation is unpopular, it’s always unpopular,” an unnamed adviser who has worked on several privatisations told The Australian.

Imperial historian Niall Ferguson wrote recently about outsourcing and could have been whispering to O’Farrell personally: ”Privatisation: a policy that has been a huge success nearly everywhere it’s been tried.”

no comments – be the first ↪