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.

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.

Private companies making a fortune from asylum seekers

My following piece appears in the Melbourne Age today:

In 2005, Labor’s then immigration spokesman Tony Burke said detention centres for asylum seekers must never be run by private companies. “You shouldn’t have a situation”, he said, “where the level of supervision and the standard of care has anything to do with the private profits of an offshore company.”

It was a position Labor took to the 2007 election, pledging to place the nation’s centres back in public hands. The promise didn’t last long.

In 2009, Kevin Rudd’s government announced that British multinational Serco, a service-providing company dogged by human rights abuse scandals at home, had been awarded the $370 million contract to house the relatively few refugees then in detention.

Four years later, Serco controls more than 20 centres across the nation and more than 10,500 people. The contract, constantly evolving with increasing boat arrivals, is now worth more than $1.86 billion. Other companies, such as G4S, Toll Group, Lohberger Engineering, Decmil and Canstruct are revelling in Labor’s pain. Stopping the boats will be bad for business.

One of the least examined aspects of refugee policy is the companies making a killing from the government’s failure to humanely process asylum seekers. John Howard accelerated outsourcing to the point where dozens of former detainees received compensation after being assaulted or psychologically damaged, while guards still experience post-traumatic stress because they never received appropriate training.

I read almost daily emails from former local employees of some of the world’s largest private prison companies. They tell me about their nightmares and say their managers during the early 2000s would allow detention centres to descend into crisis to force Canberra’s hand and guarantee more funds to ”manage” the situation. ”The budget for reassuring Australians is bottomless,” journalist David Marr has written.

The idea that private industry is more efficient and cheaper than the public sector is an illusion.

It is adherence to neo-liberal ideology that explains why Australia doesn’t want governments in the business of public services, war, mining and increasingly aid. The state is bad. Private enterprise is good.

Corporate lobbyists grease the wheels – witness the long line of Australian politicians on ”study tours” to Britain being wined and dined by Serco, which hopes to persuade them to privatise yet another hospital or juvenile justice program – and the public is left short-changed, with lower standards of care.

During the writing of my new book, Profits of Doom, I spent time with a senior Serco manager who was disgusted with what he saw as his employer exploiting the government’s troubles over asylum seekers. He gave me internal documents that point to price-gouging, especially on ferrying refugees to different camps, understaffing, undertraining and disturbing levels of self-harm by detainees. In one month alone, January 2012, Serco made 65 per cent profit at Northern Territory’s Wickham Point, more than $2.5 million. British Serco management has a ”colonial attitude” towards Australia, the source said, and make little effort to understand local conditions.

The company is rarely fined by the government for breaches because, I was told, managers are instructed not to report problems. The bottom line is all that matters. The contract between Serco and the government – I’ve seen one of the latest versions – indicates there are few formal mechanisms that are policed to ensure an accurate reporting regime.

The contract between Canberra and G4S, the British company running Manus Island, is even vaguer and dictates no independent audits. Former G4S manager Rod St George recently told SBS TV’s Dateline there had been rapes and physical abuses in the camps.

Yet the profits keep coming. Decmil won a $137 million contract in June to build a centre on Manus. Guess who will be rapt by the prospect of housing thousands more detainees if Rudd’s ”PNG solution” is fully implemented?

My Serco source told me recently that both the company and the Immigration Department were in ”chaos” and ”can’t handle the boats”. Yet the corporation is reducing staff to ”keep profits high”, he said.

Serco says the allegations against it are unwarranted and untrue. It denies understaffing and undertraining, and says ”bad apples” among staff are disciplined or fired and that asylum seekers are treated with compassion.

In Britain, the Ministry of Justice recently found ”serious concerns” over G4S and Serco-run prisons and urged a ”halt to the privatisation of justice”. In another English case almost 10 years ago, a 100-kilogram guard employed by G4S fatally restrained a 40-kilogram boy. Rather than dismissing the man, the company promoted him to health and safety manager for G4S’ children’s services.

My Serco source says managers are routinely moved, especially at the ”most difficult centres” such as Darwin and Christmas Island. ”They’re told if they get abatements [fines from Canberra], they’ll be fired”.

In Australia, Labor and the Liberals are committed to engorging private companies in their war against asylum seekers, but accountability is close to non-existent – ask any journalist trying to get straight answers from Serco, G4S or the Immigration Department and they’ll tell you the system is gamed to obfuscate.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Refugees aren’t products to be packaged at the lowest prices and sold to the highest bidder. Today, however, the only people benefiting from detainees’ misery are the corporations warehousing them.

Journalist Antony Loewenstein is the author of Profits of Doom: How Vulture Capitalism is Swallowing the World (MUP)