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-run prison on isolated Australian island

My following investigation appeared in Crikey this week:

It was a Saturday night community event and could have been in any small Australian town. A fund-raiser was being held for the Thai floods victims and proceedings began with local boys and girls playing short classical pieces on an electric piano. The room was colourful with red tablecloths and a predominantly Chinese, Thai and Malay audience, with a smattering of white Anglos.

This was Christmas Island in November and I was there to visit the large detention centre run by British multinational Serco and the Immigration Department. With a population of about 1500, situated three-and-a-half hours from Perth and serviced by only one airline, Virgin, as an Australian satellite, the island should be a tourist Mecca. Warm weather, Buddhist temples on the coast, palm trees, beautiful vistas across the Indian Ocean, lush rainforests, coconuts falling from trees and unique birds all contribute to a tropical oasis.

But these facts ignore what the Australian government has created out of sight and out of mind. “Everybody thinks of us as a prison island,” a United Christmas Island Workers union member told me. “I travel to Australia or Asia and that’s all they say.”

Gordon Thomson, head of the United Christmas Island Workers union — currently leading a fight against CI’s phosphate mine owners over higher wage demands — said: “We shouldn’t lock people up; it’s like a prison here.”

Christmas Island is full of contradictions. One night I attended, with hundreds of others, an annual event at a Buddhist temple. Two shamans were flown in from Malaysia to bless the community. One, with detailed tattoos on his back and arms, sucked two dummies for five hours while handing out sweets to children. He and his colleague were apparently in a trance and kept the crowd transfixed while the Malay community provided massive helpings of rice, meat, water and beer for the assembled crowd. Large, colourful incense rockets lit the night sky with wisps of jumping fire.

During the evening, I spoke to a young teacher who worked with small children in detention on the island. He had arrived with high hopes of being able to change the system from within. He said Serco staff were friendly enough but told a revealing anecdote. His school had put together an induction manual and gave it to Serco to examine. The response was that some Serco staff were unable to complete the task because they couldn’t read or write.

The island’s biggest employer is now Serco, with most of the workers housed in ’70s style, low-rise apartment blocks. The island’s infrastructure, despite periodic Australian government funding, is lacking, and resentment towards Canberra was palpable. As more boats arrive — I saw two carrying 100 asylum seekers come into shallow waters — many residents told me they couldn’t understand why asylum seekers were being so well housed while they still waited on better and more affordable housing and job opportunities.

The Labor government’s island administrator, Brian Lacy, said he regularly asked Canberra for more resources and had hired a consultant to assist designing a tourist campaign to reframe the island as more than just a prison.

The detention centre is situated on the far side of the island, a long way from any habitation; my visits there required navigating around various road closures due to the current crab migration. During the March riots, footage of a burning detention centre shocked Australia and the world. Viewing that vantage point requires a short hike up a hill. Road access is now blocked, I was told, to deny media easy accessibility.

The vista was expansive and revealing. The amount of resources required to maintain such a centre — when prices on the island for even the most basic products grow exponentially — is extraordinary. Currently holding about 700 asylum seekers, from a peak of more than 3000 earlier this year, an Immigration Department spokeswoman told me the instruction from Canberra was now to maintain relatively low numbers to avoid over-crowding and rising tensions. Nobody sleeps in tents at the centre any more, a common occurrence in the past.

The feeling of isolation, similar to the Curtin detention centre, is key to the soaring mental health problems of staff and detainees. Sister Joan Kelleher, who lives on the island and daily visits detainees, told me she was against mandatory detention because she saw the effects it was having on the men she was seeing.

On the day that I encountered Sister Kelleher on the foreshore, she was accompanied by four Afghan Hazara men, ranging in age from 30s to 40s, who were allowed a few hours with the woman, wading in the ocean and cooking a barbecue of sausages, onions and bread rolls. They had all been in detention, in Darwin and on Christmas Island, for more than 20 months and were awaiting judicial reviews of their claims. They were all on anti-depressant medication and keen to tell me their stories about repression in the Pakistani town of Quetta, where their wives and children still lived in constant danger.

The following day, a few hours before I left, I was finally granted access inside the detention centre to see one Hazara Afghan (after initially being rejected by bureaucrats on the mainland and negotiating with the facility’s departmental manager). I was introduced to the head case manager, Sally, after being ushered through what she acknowledged was “a maximum security prison”. She later added: “If it was built more recently it would be different, softer, less like a jail.”

After passing through heavy security doors, we arrived in a compound of clinical meeting rooms. Sally said Mohammed (not his real name) would arrive shortly. In the meantime she said she was happy to answer any of my questions (by this stage I knew I was getting red-carpet treatment, if such a thing was possible.)

I asked if she believed privatised detention, companies designed to make a profit from asylum seekers, was preferable. Although Sally said there were problems, she said Serco was an essential partner because the public service simply wasn’t capable of handling security, “intel gathering” and other services unless “we hire many more people”.

It reflected something I saw in other centres across the country, the symbiotic relationship between DIAC and Serco: they can’t live without the other and support each other’s secretive culture.

Mohammed arrived and through a Farsi translator — who told me he was from Afghanistan and came by boat in 1999 — explained that he was very depressed after 22 months in detention. He barely made eye contact and looked down at his hands during our time together. He couldn’t go back to Pakistan for safety reasons but he said DIAC never gave any concrete details about his upcoming judicial review. He took six different anti-depressants daily.

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist currently working on a book about disaster capitalism

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