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.

Civil strife serious possibility in PNG due to vulture capitalism

My following investigation appears in Crikey today:

The story led the business pages in Papua New Guinea’s Post-Courier in early February. “Analyst: PNG on verge of change” screamed the headline. British-based market analysts Bdaily Business Network praised the $US17.3 billion Exxon-Mobil led LNG project. “[It] is the most important single development in the history of PNG”, it stated, coming online for overseas markets in 2014.

But the reality away from corporate spin is a simmering conflict. A source close to the Southern Highlands land owners, the site of the major LNG project, predicts civil strife in the coming years. Locals are starting to collect weapons and grenades for the coming fight. Sabotage and attacks on pipelines are likely. Weapons are being smuggled in from Indonesia, including West Papua and Thursday Island near Australia.

“I fear what is coming unless something changes soon,” he says at a local Chinese restaurant covered in Coke-coloured wallpaper. “We are not being heard and feel we have no choice. We know we will be out-gunned, and Exxon, being an American company, may receive US government support, but this is about dignity and our rights.”

Stanley Mamu, editor of the LNG Watch blog, fears a Bougainville-style war over resources. It is almost inevitable, he argues, unless Exxon and the government listen to the grievances of the local people. Tensions are already high after a deadly landslide in January was blamed on nearby mining blasts.

LNG project managing director Peter Graham told Radio Australia last year he was satisfied with the “extraordinarily consultative process” with the landowners. That would be news to most of them.

A story in PNG’s Sunday Chronicle in mid-February highlights their anger. Two landowner chiefs demanded Exxon “fulfil relocation” plans previously agreed to. They complain about Exxon-hired private security firm G4S — the company has implanted itself in the highest echelons of the national government, I am told by countless NGOs — and local police using excessive force to re-open a key access road to the LNG project. They warn that other residents will heed a call to join them in resisting the development.

A former commander in the PNG army during the Bougainville “crisis” of the 1990s warned in 2010 that the presence of a foreign militia company such as G4S heightened the chances of another conflict: “They [G4S] have no appreciation of the local customs, culture and the people.”

I recently travelled to Papa Lea-Lea, about 30 minutes from downtown Port Moresby, to investigate a key LNG hub of the project. Driving through impoverished communities living alongside the shore, we pass small villages along the cracked road — small houses built of stilts to keep them from sinking. “They would have to move if a cyclone hit,” an Oxfam PNG staff member who accompanied me says matter-of-factly.

Passing a roadblock — our driver is forced to pay a small bribe to a policeman because he doesn’t hold a driver’s licence — we soon see kilometres of high fences behind which sit LNG facilities in various stages of completion. Security guards watch us drive past. On one side of the road is the beaten-up land of the project, the other is lush, rolling hills. Oxfam tells me some landowners have done deals with Exxon for the use of their property while others complain they aren’t properly consulted before work has begun.

Oxfam recently released a report on the LNG’s impacts in the area after engaging an LNG Impact Listening Project. The results were decidedly mixed and explained how alcohol abuse by men and women was leading to a spike in HIV infection, domestic assault and infidelity. One woman from Porebada said that road construction caused excessive dust that affected the growth of bananas, mangoes and paw paws. “Every time we go to find our gardens polluted.”

The current Peter O’Neill government supports the LNG project as strongly as Michael Somare’s. Australian billionaire Clive Palmer recently announced his likely entry into the LNG race, saying: “If we find gas, we develop it and make billions of dollars out of it.” During my visit the re-entry of Shell into PNG was also warmly embraced as a key driver of LNG opportunities.

Australia still pours millions into the country as a supposed insurance policy against imminent collapse. Former foreign minister Alexander Downer recently wrote in The National that his government “rebuilt PNG’s economy” and “helped end the Bougainville crisis” when in reality — as Crikey has reported —  the Howard years entrenched the rot that has continued under the expanded Labor aid program (much of which goes on “boomerang aid”).

My time in Madang with the progressive NGO Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) was a welcome change, one of the few organisations in the country that believes the only sustainable way forward for PNG is to reject all Australian support and find alternatives to mining and forestry projects, such as agriculture.

BRG’s Rosa Koian tells me there were countless examples just in her province — a polluting Chinese-owned Ramu Nickel mine and an equally polluting Filipino-run cannery — that show how corporate giants can mislead locals. Poor communication was a factor so BRG’s community workers take locals being romanced by corporations to areas where such firms have set up. “We have had 250 years of failed capitalism here,” Rosa says.

Terry is a key losing litigant in a recently completed case by landowners against the Chinese-owned MCC, which runs the Ramu Nickel mine in Madang. He claims violent intimidation by the company and has witnessed pollution in the water near his village. “Every day I hope the world comes to an end,” he says to me in despair. The top courts, ministers and federal government are all colluding to support the mine, he says.

MCC advertising in the local press claims the company is “ready to deliver”. But perhaps not for the people in Madang.

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist currently working on a book about vulture capitalism. Read here his first PNG report from Bougainville.

one comment ↪
  • Brian Harry

    If it's anything like what is happening in Nigeria's Oil rich Delta (Shell), then, there will be trouble. I don't think too many of PNG's politicians can be trusted to look after the peoples interests. They were up to their neck in the problems at OK Tedi, and eventually passed a law absolving BHP(and themselves) from any future liabilities.