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.

What released Serco contract says about Australian government’s lack of standards

Following our world exclusive revelations yesterday about the Serco contract with the Australian government (stories herehere and here), last night ABC Radio’s PM featured an interview with the editor of the independent publication that ran the articles, New Matilda:

MARK COLVIN: The news website New Matilda has obtained the contracts under which the private company SERCO runs Australia’s detention centres.

The website used Freedom of Information laws to get access to the first publicly available version of the 2009 Immigration Department contract with the British multinational.

The editor of New Matilda is Marni Cordell.

I asked her what the FOI revealed.

MARNI CORDELL: There’s actually quite a lot; there’s 700 pages of information.

So the main things that we’ve picked up on is that general security guards at detention centres can be hired without any formal qualifications. So they have six months before they are required to have a Certificate II which is a base level security qualification.

MARK COLVIN: So no security qualifications and presumably no psychological qualifications or anything like that either?

MARNI CORDELL: That’s right. There is a requirement that staff undertake mental health training but there’s no specific details about what that involves.

MARK COLVIN: Do they get any instruction during the first six months on how to deal with people who are depressed or trying to commit suicide?

MARNI CORDELL: They do undertake some induction training at the start of their contract and that involves mental health awareness training, cultural awareness, conflict de-escalation. But there aren’t many details on what that induction training involves.

MARK COLVIN: But what does the contract tell you about how those things, depression and trying to commit suicide, how those things are seen in terms of priorities?

MARNI CORDELL: There is a listing of different levels of incident; so there were three levels of incident; there’s critical, there’s major and there’s minor incidents and they all have different reporting requirements for Serco.

So critical incidents obviously involve things like hostage situations, riots, mass break-outs, but they also, surprisingly, include things like high profile visitor refused access; so if someone is high profile and has been refused access to a detention centre Serco is obliged to tell the department within 30 minutes of that happening.

MARK COLVIN: Are media visits also critical incidents?

MARNI CORDELL: Also media visits. So an unauthorised media presence at a facility is considered a critical incident.

Minor incidents are things such as voluntary starvation for under 24 hours, childbirth and clinical depression.

MARK COLVIN: Clinical depression is a minor incident?

MARNI CORDELL: That’s right.

MARK COLVIN: What about somebody trying to commit suicide?

MARNI CORDELL: That’s listed in a critical incident, yep.

MARK COLVIN: What about the openness, what about the transparency of Serco and its contracts?

MARNI CORDELL: There are a couple of mentions of their dealing with the media. So Serco employees are contractually obliged not to speak to the media at all. They’re not allowed to make a public statement or deal quote “with any inquiry from or otherwise advise the media”. And they are required to report to the department but there is no contractual obligation for an independent audit of their dealings.

MARK COLVIN: I think Serco has said in the past that it’s wrong to call it a secretive organisation or to say that its dealings with the public are secretive; what do you say now that you’ve seen the contract?

MARNI CORDELL: Well it’s obvious from the contract that they’re not only secretive but they’re also contractually obliged to be secretive and they’re not allowed to discuss any matters to do with the running of immigration detention centres.

MARK COLVIN: Is that their fault or the department’s fault?

MARNI CORDELL: Well it’s in the contract so they’re obliged not to do that.

MARK COLVIN: So it’s the department that’s imposing that on them?

MARNI CORDELL: I would say it’s coming from both parties but yes it certainly is in the contract.

MARK COLVIN: What about the independent audit, you just mentioned that briefly; does that mean that nobody can really oversee them?

MARNI CORDELL: There’s no obligation for there to be an independent audit, so that certainly makes it difficult to know what exactly is going on inside the immigration detention centres. So there are obligations for them to report directly to the Department of Immigration but there’s no requirement that an independent audit takes place.

MARK COLVIN: Was it very difficult to get this FOI request through?

MARNI CORDELL: It took some time yes. We’ve also got the FOI document upon the site; we also have a document that is a leaked version of the same contract. Serco has blocked some sections of the FOI document and some of those sections are actually available in the leaked document which is on our website as well.

MARK COLVIN: So what do they tell us that they don’t want us to know?

MARNI CORDELL: Some of the things are blocked in both documents but some of the things we were able to discover from the leaked document include quite an interesting list of they’re called abatement and incentive requirements; so where Serco is fined for poor performance and also rewarded with higher fees for good performance.

There’s also information about how often guards are required to check the internal and external perimeters of the detention centres.

MARK COLVIN: Other than just as a piece of investigative journalism, what do you hope to come out of this?

MARNI CORDELL: There’s actually a huge amount of information in these documents; there’s more than 700 pages and I would hope that other media pick up on it and really investigate what is going on and demand some more transparency about how Serco runs Australia’s immigration detention centres.

MARK COLVIN: Marni Cordell, editor of the New Matilda news website.

one comment ↪
  • Paul Jones

    Tremendous journalism Anthony! I see that the Serco contract FOI links are disabled on the newmatilda web page, are thedocuments accessible elsewhere?