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.

Exclusive: Australian government contract with Serco revealed

The following global exclusive, written with Paul Farrell and Marni Cordell, appears today in Australian magazine New Matilda:

Today NM publishes the contract signed between the Department of Immigration and Serco, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act

New Matilda has gained exclusive access to the first publicly available version of the 2009 Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) contract with British multinational Serco.

The contract was obtained through a Freedom of Information request and reveals the most comprehensive information yet about the running of Australian detention centres.

New Matilda’s analysis of the document reveals that:

  •  General security guards can begin work with no formal security qualifications and are only required to obtain a Certificate II within six months of working with Serco.
  • Clinical depression, childbirth and voluntary starvation for under 24 hours are considered “minor” incidents while unauthorised media access is considered “critical”.
  • Of these “minor” incidents, only 10 per cent are required to be audited internally by Serco.
  • There is no contractual requirement of an independent audit of Serco’s management of detention centres.

The first 80 pages of the contract can be downloaded here. Links to the remaining sections can be found at the end of this article.

Other issues of note include:

  • Serco is obliged to provide phone services to people in detention but the contract specifies that mobile phone handsets “[must] not have a recording facility (either audio or visual)”.
  • Serco must also “control and limit” detainees’ internet access to pornography, FTP sites, and “prohibited sites in foreign languages”. It is not specified which sites are prohibited and under what law.
  • If a member of the public complains or provides feedback about an immigration detention centre, Serco must notify the department within one day and provide a written response to the person within two weeks, “setting out the action taken of the reason why no action will be taken”.
  • Serco is obliged to provide “tea, coffee, water and biscuits” when detainees have visitors and visiting areas must contain “hot/cold drinks and confectionery vending machines”.
  • Serco must “not provide access to the Facility for media visits unless the visit has been approved by the Department” and must “ensure that media personnel only conduct activities approved by the Department”.
  • Serco indemnifies DIAC from and against any loss arising from or as a consequence of any “death, or bodily injury, disease or illness (including mental illness) of any person including People in Detention” — this clause survives for a period of seven years following the expiration of the contract.

According to a letter from DIAC’s FOI officer, Serco objects to DIAC’s decision to release some parts of this contract and has exercised its rights under FOI law to block access to those sections in the document marked “s27 consultation”.

View the FOI officer’s decision and a full list of the documents that were blocked by Serco here.

However, New Matilda has also obtained a leaked copy of the contract in which some of these blocked sections are visible.

This version of the contract has not been officially released, and reveals:

  • The internal and external perimeter of the detention centres are only required to be checked by security guards twice a day; at the opening of the centre and before it’s locked up.
  • Checks to ensure detainees are “present and safe” are only required to be conducted four times a day.
  • A carrot and stick system of “abatements” and “incentives” where Serco is fined for poor performance and rewarded with higher fees for good performance

Read the leaked version of the contract here.

The fact that this contract has only been released now, more than two years after it was signed, reflects how closely guarded the agreement between Serco and the Federal Government remains.

Last week, Serco’s Australian CEO Bob McGuiness told Perth Now that he was “gobsmacked” to hear Serco described as a “secretive organisation” in the media. “I find that astonishing,” he said.

In fact, the contract prohibits Serco employees from speaking to the media at all. It reads:

“The Service Provider must not, and will ensure that its officers, employees, directors, contractors and agents do not:
Make any public statement;
Release any information to, make any statement to, deal with any inquiry from or otherwise advise the media;
Publish distribute or otherwise make available any information or material to third parties.”

The hypocrisy of McGuiness’s comments is also remarkable in light of Serco’s attempts to block access to information that the DIAC FOI decision maker has argued should be public.

The Labor government and DIAC agreed to the terms of this contract. By privatising immigration detention centres, successive Australian governments have kept these issues out of sight and out of mind, under the pretence of information being “commercial-in-confidence”. Bureaucratic buck-passing ensures little firm information is ever released.

Many parts of the contract have still not been released on the decision of DIAC’s FOI officer — including the names of the Serco directors who manage relations with DIAC and run detention centres.

Read NM’s extended coverage of the contract here and here.

Links to Serco contract (FOI version)

Volume 1, Part 1

Volume 1, Part 2

Volume 1, Part 3

Volume 1, Part 4

Volume 1, Part 5

Volume 1, Part 6

Volume 1, Part 7

Volume 2, Part 1

Volume 2, Part 2

Volume 2, Part 3

Volume 2, Part 4

Volume 2, Part 5

Volume 2, Part 6

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