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: Serco hires untrained guards in Australia

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

The Gillard Government’s contract with Serco imposes no initial training requirements for security guards, according to documents obtained under FOI – and that’s causing damage to asylum seekers and to the guards themselves

Serco security guards in immigration detention centres are not required to hold any formal security qualifications for six months, according to its contract with the Immigration Department (DIAC).

The contract, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, reveals that the agreement between Serco and the Immigration Department only requires security guards to “obtain a Certificate Level II in Security Operations within six months of commencement”.

A Certificate II is the minimum security requirement for unarmed security guards, and many training organisations fit the entire course into just five days.

In the recent parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s immigration detention network  this issue was raised repeatedly and DIAC officials refused to clearly answer questions about the qualifications of security guards at detention centres operated by Serco.

This is what Labor Senator Trish Crossin asked DIAC representatives:

“If you have, for example, a security guard employed by Serco at your detention centres — that is their job description — what level of qualification are they expected to have?”

A straightforward question. This was their response:

Ms [Jackie] Wilson: We would have to check that. It is a cert II or III.

Mr [Andrew] Moorhouse: There is a cert, whether it is a cert IV or a cert III in security. They are required to have the training for their particular role.

Senator Crossin: What is the minimum? What is the level of classification that each Serco person has? What is the job description and what is their base qualification?

Mr [John] Metcalfe: Essentially they are role based descriptions and qualifications appropriate for those roles. We can take that on notice.

However, New Matilda can reveal that the contract lists only two categories of guards — general security and managerial — and that general security guards are employable at the outset with no security qualifications whatsoever.

This raises serious questions about the capacity of Serco guards to manage detention centres effectively. The recent riots at Villawood Detention Centre and at Darwin Detention Centre last year highlight a growing trend of Serco staff being unable to adequately manage conflict situations.

Some guards have already blown the whistle on the consequences of the lack of training, and these reports just keep coming. The NT News recently reported that Serco staff working in Darwin’s detention centre are often taking stress leave due to their working conditions. The paper noted that the Certificate II in security operations required by staff to begin work is the same as pub bouncers. One mental health nurse told the NT News that, “we were told at our induction that (Serco workers) could have been making cappuccino or pizza the week before they started. Basically they are not trained.”

These conditions are taking their toll. We have spoken to a number of both former Serco staff and workers of its sub-contractor MSS who have detailed exposure to refugee trauma. Many of them reported developing mental health problems and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

According to the contract, Serco must ensure that all personnel attend “mental health awareness training prior to commencing work at the facility” and “a refresher course every two years”.

However, it is not specific in its requirements that staff be properly trained for stressful situations with vulnerable asylum seekers. The recent suicides at detention centres across the country highlight the need for security officers to be trained in handling such complex, stressful situations.

During the parliamentary inquiry, DIAC officers continued to stress the induction training that Serco officers were required to undertake. However, according to the contract, this training does not involve any security specific skills:

“1.1 Induction Training

All Service Provider Personnel must have completed Induction training before they commence

duty at a Facility that includes instruction in:

(a) cultural awareness;

(b) the Immigration Detention Values;

(c) conflict de-escalation;

(d) duty of care responsibilities;

(e) communication and interaction with Department Personnel, Stakeholders and other

service providers;

(f) problem solving and decision-making in the workplace;

(g) skills on interacting with People in Detention; and

(h) record keeping procedures.”

This is a vague set of criteria for training — especially in comparison to the detail set out in other parts of the contract including, for example, an inventory of all loose assets right down to knives and forks.

NM asked DIAC about the terms of the contract relating to security guards. Why were the training requirements not more stringent — and why was the induction training so loosely described? At publication no reply has been received.

Increasing reports of violence and self harm by immigration detainees indicate that there is a growing problem in Australia detention centres. The question for Serco and DIAC is whether these problems could be mitigated with better induction training and more stringent requirements of the staff paid to work with these most vulnerable people.

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