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.

Feeling sorry for Serco?

British multinational Serco, the company that runs Australia’s immigration detention centres, is facing constant fines from the government. A story in yesterday’s Australian (headlined in the paper edition, “Breaches sending detention firm bust”, which is completely untrue) shows the dysfunctional nature of the relationship between contractor and government. No transparency exists:

The company running Australia’s immigration detention centres is incurring unsustainable fines from the Department of Immigration for breaches of its $712 million contract, according to a leaked email from Serco’s senior operations manager at the Christmas Island detention centre.

An escape on July 1 — about three months after Australian Federal Police were sent to bolster the security at the centre and insist that electric perimeter fences be switched on — is the latest in a string of breaches that will cost Serco dearly.

The company last week appointed a full-time security manager to prevent further escapes. Guards are now stationed on the perimeter of the centre under beach umbrellas on 12-hour shifts, complaining it is too hot and that shade falls on the other side of the fence for several hours each day.

Serco’s senior operations manager for the detention centre, Steve Southgate, addressed colleagues about continued breaches in an email last Monday.

“We can no longer remain where we are,” he said. “We are getting fined for things that should have been completed. We are getting fined for not paying attention to the detail. We are getting fined for not doing what we have said we will do. We need to change our culture to a proactive culture and get ourselves out of this reactive blame culture.”

The Immigration Department does not reveal the amount of any fines to Serco. But the 729-page contract spells out strict terms on breaches that can lead to abatements, including time limits for reporting incidents as well as paperwork requirements. The Australian has been told a single escape can incur a $100,000 fine.

The five-year contract for the running of immigration detention services has been made more difficult because of a blowout in the number of detainees prompted by a surge in boat arrivals that began in late 2008. There were fewer than 1000 detainees in the network when Serco took over from G4S while yesterday there were 5649.

The paper also ran a powerful feature about the detrimental effect of detention on both refugees and Serco staff. This unaccountable and privatised system cares little for human beings when the profit motive is paramount in the minds of company executives. Governments, meanwhile, simply want the problem to go away and believe a corporation will offer one less level of public scrutiny:

…There are fears at the highest levels of the company [Serco] that many staff are offside.

Some of the guards contacted by The Australian are exhausted by the constant conflict in their workplace and spoke with jarring hostility towards the detainees as well as their employer.

“Don’t rush home,” one guard emailed a colleague who was off work and on a holiday late last year. “All the f . . king arseholes are sewing their lips up and getting on the roof and bashing each other and hanging themselves.”

The guard told his friend how he had feared for his safety during a brawl. “There were seven of us . . . with 300 of them during the big group fight,” he wrote.

“[A fellow guard, name removed] cut down someone and was attacked by a guy with his lips sewn up.”

Staff are furious this week to be forced to sit around the perimeter of the detention centre under beach umbrellas as a result of an escape on July 1.

It was hot and the shade fell on the other side of the fence for much of the day, they complained.

While the work at the remote centres in Queensland, WA and Christmas Island can be harrowing, boring, uncomfortable or dangerous, for many it is the best money they have made.

Serco’s guards, or client service officers, say they get about $10,000 a month after tax if they are on a sought-after fly-in, fly-out contract from the mainland.

Many are ex-prison guards but that sort of experience is not necessary; the company’s contract with the Immigration Department stipulates only that they obtain a certificate level II in security operations within six months of starting work. That takes four weeks, according to a recent Serco recruiting drive, though The Australian has been told some new arrivals on the island trained for 12 days in a Perth hotel, followed by a few more days of training on Christmas Island, then a graduation ceremony.

Their training included learning the company’s computer system and watching videos on how to restrain people with appropriate force. They also practised restraints and other techniques.

All Serco employees must also do cultural awareness and mental health awareness training.

  • Victoria


    At leonora, for example, where vulnerable families have been detained, the HR report demonstrates that not one single Serco guard had done the training: this included folks who had worked in the system for some time.

    As advocates we keep saying that in addition to injustice of mandatory detention is the complete incompetence and lies told by Serco.
    They cannot even get people to their Drs appointments or to court!

  • Danny

    At last an article that concerns itself with the effect this work has on it employees instead of the usual drivel that describes the staff as thugs and mercenaries. There are a lot of ordinary decent hard-working people employed by Serco, who take a professional approach to what they can do (within very tight constraints at times!)
    The 100K+ per year earned by FIFO staff is made up of their basic pay, overtime and allowances, for working a 72 hour week – yes that's 6 x 12 hour shifts per week. The Serco staff who work in their local centres are on half of that for an 84 hour fortnight……not so well paid huh?
    A lot of the detainees are well behaved, but frustrated and understandably so. There are a few who are intent on making threats to self harm if they do not get their own way over minor things such as a TV not working and being told it may take a few days to get fixed (in remote areas), or threatening to self harm because they have to share a hospital room with other people…..believe me there is a hell of a lot of this going on and staff feel they are being held to ransom……but still there are an element of people who want to defend the trouble makers and make out that all Serco staff are beating and torturing people. Maybe some of the people with these beliefs ought to walk for a day in the shoes of a Serco officer instead of listening to stories of torture, made up by those who think it will bring attention to their case.
    Enough said.