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.

Serco’s record on managing human beings far from ideal

While yet another detention centre in Australia, Villawood, run by British multinational Serco, is today facing refugee riots (and what do we expect, locking people up for months if not years? No mental trauma or anger?), earlier this week ABC TV’s 7.30 tackled the role of Serco. The story wasn’t bad (overly focused on under-staffing rather than the litany of human rights breaches by the company) but it’s a start. More, please:

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: More questions about how Australia’s detention centres are being run and whether there are enough properly-trained staff to handle the growing number of asylum seekers.

Serco is the outside company which manages the nation’s detention facilities and it’s currently under investigation by both the Commonwealth Ombudsman and a Government-appointed review. Those inquiries were sparked by last month’s riots and breakouts on Christmas Island.

National affairs correspondent Heather Ewart takes a look at the pressures on detention centres and their workers, including new allegations that staff are being pressured not to report troublesome incidents.

HEATHER EWART, REPORTER: Detention centres in Australia are a growth business. When the large multinational corporation Serco signed on to manage them just under two years ago, there were five centres with around 1,000 detainees. These days, that number has ballooned to almost 6,500, housed at 23 sites around the country. Serco finds itself under greater scrutiny than ever before.

KAYE BERNARD, CHRISTMAS ISLAND WORKERS UNION: The increasing numbers of asylum seekers that have been stuffed into a poor facilities run by Serco who have proven themself not to be able to manage what they’ve been paid millions of dollars to do needs to be clearly looked at.

VICTORIA MARTIN-IVERSON, REFUGEE ACTION NETWORK: Look, we know from Christmas Island Detention Centre that there’s been regular and fairly consistent levels of profound understaffing. We see dramatic staff turnover at all the centres.

SCOTT PRASSER, AUST. CATHOLIC UNI.: I think the problem is Serco’s got a reputation for running prisons, and a good one, but these are very different types of detention centres.

LOUISE NEWMAN, MONASH UNI.: We’re in a very precarious situation, a high-risk situation, where we’re going to see, and unless something changes, increasing rates of self-harm and protest, and sadly, even suicidal behaviour.

HEATHER EWART: Recent riots and breakouts on Christmas Island have put Serco under the spotlight. It’s only just regained control of the centre, after federal police had to take over. Now, the Ombudsman and a government appointed review are examining what went wrong and that sparked a flurry of complaints that the problems are not just confined to Christmas Island.

VICTORIA MARTIN-IVERSON: At the centres that I regularly visit, there is always brand new staff there that are undertrained.

KAYE BERNARD: I speak to officers and have counselled officers that have come off night shift where they’ve had to undertake what’s called “cut downs”. Those cut downs involve people attempting to hang themself.

VICTORIA MARTIN-IVERSON: I get reports that Curtin Detention Centre that people are now self-harming on a daily basis.

LOUISE NEWMAN: I think Serco have particularly difficult job and in many ways it’s a job that was slightly unexpected and maybe it’s fair to say that not many staff have had direct training or experience in some of these issues.

HEATHER EWART: There have been five suicides at detention centres since last September and an undisclosed number of failed attempts. Under its contract with the Department of Immigration, Serco is required to provide client support staff with a six-week training induction course. The Human Rights Commission has documented this doesn’t always occur.

VICTORIA MARTIN-IVERSON: For example, the report on Leonora found that although every staff member working at that facility for families, and very high needs families, are meant to have the psychological support program training, they found that not one single staffer had had that training.

SANDI LOGAN, IMMIGRATION DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We’re confident that Serco understands our expectations according to the contract. We’re confident that they do provide qualified and trained staff.

HEATHER EWART: But that may not always be the case. Serco is on a contract understood to amount to $370 million a year. With growing pressures on the system, it’s been subcontracting in some areas to a company called MSS Security. In Darwin last October, local Justice Department investigators raided the company with reported evidence of at least 30 unlicensed guards, including foreign students employed at detention facilities.

VICTORIA MARTIN-IVERSON: They were uncertified, and some of them, it was revealed, were alleged to have not even had the working-with-children clearances.

SANDI LOGAN: My understanding is there have been some issues around some contracted staff and their eligibility in fact to work, whether they were on the appropriate visas.

HEATHER EWART: Serco can be fined by the Government if it’s considered to have breached its contractual obligations and recent sanctions are believed to amount to around $4 million for the main Christmas Island facility alone. The local union claims this is a powerful incentive not to report troublesome incidents, including self-harm.

KAYE BERNARD: They’ve certainly instructed some of our members that they will not – they will not tolerate them reporting incidents as they’re required to do over their contract with DIAC. And if you do report incidents, you get a window seat – you’ll get flown off the island. And that’s a real concern to me.

SANDI LOGAN: I’m not aware of that allegation. If in fact that’s being made, that’s a serious allegation. It’s one that should be addressed to Serco in the first instance.

HEATHER EWART: In a statement to 7.30, Serco strongly denied the allegation, but said if there was any evidence of such a practice, it would immediately investigate. In response to claims of under-staffing and poor training, it said Serco’s training program met its obligations. However, this was a growing and increasingly complex contract and staffing levels were sometimes dependent on the stock available.

Remote locations like Christmas Island with limited accommodation do make it difficult to attract and keep staff. A report from one manager last year suggested the main North-West Point facility at Christmas Island was at least 15 staff members short per day, and that was before the number of detainees had risen to 1,000 above capacity.

The managers that they’ve had, Serco have had attracted to that centre have left quickly because they were unable to run it in any professional sense, given the resources that – the limited resources that Serco were willing to expend.

SANDI LOGAN: The contract that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has with Serco doesn’t stipulate a staff-to-client ratio. What it does require Serco to do is to meet certain standards.

SCOTT PRASSER: If you decide to put a detention centre in a remote area for all sorts of constitutional, legal reasons, the other side of that coin is how you’re going to staff it, manage it, control it.

HEATHER EWART: There have been five regional managers, some in an acting capacity at Christmas Island, since Serco started management there in September 2009. The latest from the UK lasted a matter of weeks. But Serco claims it has a consistent senior management structure.

The Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen was unavailable for comment on this and other related issues because of the review of Serco’s handling of the Christmas Island crisis. The contract with Serco is commercial-in-confidence, and it’s not clear what amounts to a breach of its terms.

VICTORIA MARTIN-IVERSON: There’s certainly a culture of silence and there is certainly a culture of secrecy. Many aspects of Serco’s contracts are secret. Many aspects of what goes on in detention centres are secret.

SANDI LOGAN: The tradition of these sorts of contracts with service providers with the Commonwealth has been, in this department’s case, that they remain commercial-in-confidence.

SCOTT PRASSER: Immigration is an area which is often an emotive area and I think at the end of the day, transparency will lead to a better outcome.

HEATHER EWART: The government review will report mid-year. At this stage, there’s no plan to extend its terms of reference to management of other detention facilities.

one comment ↪
  • Ex Serco Manager

    I have noted with interest the matters raised in regard to Serco staffing and services on Christmas Island.Until recently I was employed as a Senior Manager by Serco on Christmas Island.

    Staffing and services were way below what was considered safe and suitable to meet the requirments of the clients and the DIAC contract . These concerns were almost raised on a daily basis by both Serco Centre Managers and DIAC.

    DIAC Contract Managment were well aware of this and raised concerns through the DIAC on stite contract manager,these were bascialy ignored by both Serco and DIAC.

    In effect Serco was allowed to and paid by DIAC to operate the Centre undermanned and serviced,that Serco used unqualified staff and subcontracters ie Resolve FM ,MSS who were also complicate.
    The only time Serco saw fit to increase staff numbers. was when a serious incident had occurred.

    I agree with the comment that Serco Managers who raised concerns or disagreede withe the above were let go or left.