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 does disaster capitalism really look like in the 21st century?

In the last 7+ years, I’ve been investigating and reporting on disaster capitalism around the world. This culminated in my book, Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe, and the documentary, Disaster Capitalism.

There’s a great, long essay in the US magazine Public Books about disaster capitalism in the modern age, written by US academic Tom Winterbottom, and he assesses the various ways that three writers view the issue: Naomi Klein, George Monbiot and me. Below are some extracts from the essay:

That there are many cases of disaster capitalism is a point made by journalist Antony Loewenstein in his book, Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe (2015), and in the 2018 documentary Disaster Capitalism. In these comprehensive and unsettling works, he covers war (in Afghanistan), aid (in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake), and environmental exploitation (in Papua New Guinea). He also cites many other examples of exploitative economic practices—those that aim to make money for corporations or purposefully impoverish citizens—in Greece, the UK, the US, and Australia.

Early on in the book, Loewenstein makes an important terminological point: “Whether we call this disaster capitalism,” he writes, “or just a product of the unavoidable excesses and inequalities of capitalism itself, the end result is still a world ruled by unaccountable markets.” Although Loewenstein neglects to flesh this out, it is a crucial observation: what he sees in disparate locations and contexts is not necessarily produced or predicated by a disaster or extraordinary event. The crisis that Loewenstein documents pervades capitalist societies and lies in actors systematically embracing exploitative and damaging practices in the unfolding of the neoliberal story.

Be it detention centers in the US, relief aid in Haiti, military contractors in Afghanistan, economic sanctions on Greece, complicit corporate-sponsored NGOs in the developing world, or prison systems across much of the Western world, “predatory behavior” does vary “from country to country, but the strategy is the same: exaggerate a threat, man-made or natural, and let loose unaccountable private-sector contractors to exploit it.” Loewenstein frequently uses the term “disaster” seemingly interchangeably with terms like “exploitative,” “crisis,” and “predatory” as descriptors of capitalism. That he settles on no single word is not a weakness, but rather an intriguing diagnosis: capitalism in its current expression and at its worst is all of those things and more.

Once you pry open the terminology a little bit, as Loewenstein implies, one finds that the leverage of “disaster capitalism” now stretches far beyond that which Klein identified. In Loewenstein’s reckoning, there are still the more “traditional” disasters and economic shock therapy “solutions,” and perhaps it is those more obvious shocks that generate the conditions that allow for a particularly nefarious and obvious expression of largely harmful neoliberal capitalism, as is beginning to unfold in Puerto Rico.

In the background, however, a more unsettling picture also emerges, in which those exploitative machinations continue to take hold, progressively and aggressively, even without a disaster or shock. Indeed, after reading Loewenstein’s book, one is left wondering what isn’t impacted by the nefarious tendrils of “disaster” capitalism—education, the aid system, non-profit organizations, the democratic electoral system, privacy, healthcare, big tech, big data, underemployment. Nothing is safe from the imperial reach of a commodified system of capital. Disaster or not, it now seems that capitalism seeks to get into unexplored cracks and expand whether or not we like or even recognize it. A disaster often serves to foreground these ever-present traits. As such, “disaster” may no longer refer to specific shocks or changes in the economic system but rather to the system itself. “Disaster” can serve as a modifier concerning the very nature of capitalism and its development within a broad framework of neoliberalism. That is, it is inherently disastrous and in crisis, not exceptionally.

Klein, Monbiot, and Loewenstein chime with the positive possibility of resolution and change, often by citing cases in which the greedy reach of capitalism has been at least limited: the ongoing fight for Puerto Rico is testament to that. The three authors also ultimately demand—somewhat hopefully, or perhaps hopelessly—a need for modern societies “to view humans as more than just consumers.” Monbiot goes further, pushing for a “regime change,” in which the system is replaced rather than reformed.5 As such, their objective seems not to be “benevolent capitalism” or “sustainable capitalism” but rather “not capitalism.”

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Full interview with UK writer Johann Hari on his vital messages around depression

Back in May, I interviewed UK journalist Johann Hari at the Sydney Writer’s Festival about his new book, Lost Connections, on fresh ways to see depression and anxiety. It was a sold-out event and the full audio is now available:

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From New Orleans to Puerto Rico, vulture companies run rampant

Too often after natural disasters, corporations are looking to make a profit.

I was interviewed by the US magazine Ark Republic about this issue in a story written by Jesse Shramenko. Extracts below:

Antony Loewenstein, a Jerusalem-based freelance journalist, writer and documentarian made the film, Disaster Capitalism, to address the direction of development in Haiti, Afghanistan and Papau New Guinea. For him, similar predatory choices in New Orleans after Katrina materialized in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

“After the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017, there were moves to privatise the water, land and school system,” Loewenstein said. “The country was already financially on its knee, long troubled by a colonial relationship with Washington, but the natural disaster worsened these trends.”

Continues Loewenstein. “Charter schools are now being pushed on the nation without public consultation, akin to how authorities reacted after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In the US, the worst-off children were not helped by this policy.”

The Center for Research On Education Outcomes, revealed data in 2013 showing disparities between traditional public schools and charter schools New Orleans.

Out of 658,720 students, only 37,043 were enrolled in charter schools, 81% of whom were living in poverty. Across the board, Black charter school student and other Black charters had a total of 428 less days to learn math than Black students of traditional public schools who had 156 less days to learn math.

Charter schools, like other businesses that pop up after natural and social catastrophes bank on the misfortune of others, to simply make money, hence the term disaster capitalism. While private enterprise profits from natural disasters, the public ultimately suffers. In other words, death and destruction are big business.

Whereas privatizing government housing after Katrina was implemented, privatizing electricity is the agenda in Puerto Rico.

“Policy makers have clear choices when addressing the aftermath of a natural disaster; rebuild public services back better and more resilient to future disasters or abandon public works and solely engage the private sector. The effect of the latter is clear, making many services inaccessible for residents who can’t afford it,” Loewenstein said.

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Holding airlines to account for deporting refugees

I was happy to sign this recent statement and campaign run by the Australasian Centre for  Corporate Responsibility

The position of airlines in respect of participation in forced deportations to danger is clear.

Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights means taking measures to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts. This applies regardless of the size or structure of the business, and over and above local laws.

To discharge their responsibility, airlines should not participate in deportations where there is evidence that the fundamental human rights to an adequate legal process have been denied, as well as where there is a real risk of serious, irreparable harm to an individual.

Relevant international legal and human rights standards in relation to the deportation of asylum seekers include the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Given the inadequacy of Australian law and policy in upholding these standards, airlines should engage a heightened due diligence process in order to determine the potential for contribution to adverse human rights impacts before conducting any deportations as a provider of services to the Australian government.

Contribution to human rights abuses and failure to discharge their international obligations can do damage to a company’s reputation, undermine its social licence to operate, and pose material risks to a company’s financial interests.

Behrouz Boochani,  Kurdish journalist, human rights defender, poet and film producer who has been detained on Manus Island since 2013
Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, Executive Director, The Refugee Advice and Casework Service
Professor Gillian Triggs, former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission
Janet Holmes à Court
Rhyll McMaster, poet and author and great niece of founding CEO of Qantas Sir Fergus McMaster
Father Rod Bower, Archdeacon of the Central Coast
Carrillo Gantner AO, Chairman, Sidney Myer Fund
Jennifer Robinson, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers, London
Adjunct Professor George Newhouse, human rights lawyer, National Justice Project
Shen Narayanasamy, Director No Business in Abuse and GetUp Human Rights Director
Nayuka Gorrie, Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer
Mark Seymour,  rock legend
John Butler,  singer, songwriter, music producer
Margaret Pomeranz AM,  film critic, writer, producer and television personality
Judith Lucy, comedian and radio, television and film actress, author
Kate McCartney, writer, director, performer
Marieke Hardy, writer, broadcaster, television producer
Tom Zubrycki, documentary filmmaker
Holly Throsby, musician, novelist
Margaret Throsby AM, ABC broadcaster
Tony Wheeler AO, publishing entrepreneur, businessman and travel writer, co-founder of the Lonely Planet guidebook company
Michelle de Kretser, novelist
Thomas Keneally AO, Ambassador, Sydney Asylum Seeker Centre, novelist and playwright
Andrew Bovell, writer for theatre, film and television
Benjamin Law, author, broadcaster and TV screenwriter
Christos Tsiolkas, author, playwright, essayist and screen writer
Nigel Westlake, composer (Babe score), performer and conductor
Ana Kokkinos, film and television director and screenwriter
Neil Armfield AO, theatre, film, opera director
Tim Winton, writer
Yassmin Abdel-Magied, author, engineer
Linda Jaivin, author and translator
Anna Krien, journalist, essayist, fiction writer and poet
James Bradley, novelist and critic
Alison Croggon, writer and critic
Mireille Juchau, novelist
Gail Jones, novelist and Professor of Literature
Drusilla Modjeska, writer
Professor Terri-ann White FAHA, director UWA Publishing
Dhakshy Sooriyakumaran, founder YLab, Engineer, strategy Consultant
Van T Rudd, visual artist
Fiona Katauskas, cartoonist, illustrator
Mahmoud Salameh, cartoonist, visual artist
Hoda Afshar, visual artist
Alan Hunt, artist
Jiva Parthipan, artist
Andrew Bradley (Quro), musician, artist
Tim “Tigermoth” Paterson, musician, artist
Andrew Garvie (DJ Katch), musician and record label director, founder of Resin Dogs
Alex Kelly, film maker
Asher Wolf, journalist, human rights defender
Robin de Crespigny, author, filmmaker
Christopher Gordon, composer, Deputy Mayor of the City of Ryde
Archie Law, Chair, Sydney Peace Foundation
Glenn Osboldstone, Lawyers for Forests
Lizzie O’Shea, lawyer and writer

Shankari Chandran, lawyer and writer
Robert Henderson, Economics, Finance and Banking Consultant and formerly chief economist (markets) with National Australia Bank
Raj Thamotheram, founder & chair of Preventable Surprises
Pablo Berrutti, Responsible Investment professional
Simon O’Connor, Responsible Investment professional
Matt McAdam, Responsible Investment professional
Phil Vernon, Managing Director, Australian Ethical Investment
Simon Sheikh, Managing Director, Future Super
Terry Pinnell, Chair Ethical Advisers Co-op
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Michele O’Neill, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions
Sam Huggard, Secretary, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
Luke Hilakari, Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council
Meredith Hammat, Secretary, UnionsWA
David Smith, National Secretary, Australian Services Union
Tim Kennedy, National Secretary, National Union of Workers
Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary, United Voice
Paul Bastian, National Secretary, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union
Jeanne Rea, National President, National Tertiary Education Union
Michael Thompson, NSW State Secretary, National Tertiary Education Union
Allen Hicks, National Secretary, Electrical Trades Union of Australia
Grant Phillips, Secretary, Newcastle & Northern branch, Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union
Graham Smith, Federal Secretary, Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union
Mick Nairn, President, Fire Brigade Employees’ Union
Susan Hopgood, Federal Secretary, Australian Education Union
John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation
Annie Butler, Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia
Michael O’Connor, National Secretary, Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union
Kate Lee, Executive Officer, Union Aid Abroad, APHEDA
Jacquie Widin, President, SEARCH Foundation
Melissa Parke, former federal member for Fremantle and Minister for International Development
Debbie Stothard, Secretary General and Coordinator, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Associate Professor Justine Nolan, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Professor Denise Bradley AC
Dennis Altman AM FASSA,  Ambassador Human Rights Law Centre, Patron, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives and Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia
Professor Brigitta Olubas, School of the Arts and Media, UNSW
Simon Holmes à Court, Senior Advisor, Climate and Energy College, Melbourne University
Dr Shelley Marshall, Senior Research Fellow, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University
Dr Julia Dehm, Lecturer, La Trobe Law School
Dr Alice de Jonge, Senior Lecturer, Monash Business School
Chris Nash, Professor of Journalism (Adjunct), School of Media, Film and Journalism, Faculty of Arts, Monash University
Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist, author and film-maker
Tessa Khan, international human rights lawyer
Rawan Arraf, human rights lawyer
Claire Palmer, barrister
Peter O’Brien, Principal, O’Brien criminal and civil solicitors
Tim Lo Surdo, Democracy in Colour
Ben Oquist, Executive Director, The Australia Institute
Tim Hollo, Executive Director, The Green Institute
Christine Milne, Global Greens Ambassador and former Leader of the Australian Greens
Sophie Black, Head of Publishing, The Wheeler Centre
Elaine Pearson, Australia Director, Human Rights Watch
Claire Mallinson, National Director, Amnesty International Australia
Madeleine Bridgett, barrister and Co-Chair Business and Human Rights Sub-Committee, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
Keren Adams, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Professor Paul Redmond AM, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney, member of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM, CEO, Asylum Seekers’ Resource Centre
Luke Fletcher, Executive Director, Jubilee Australia
Lyn Harrison, CEO, House of Welcome
Frances Rush, CEO, Asylum Seekers Centre Sydney
Carolina Gottardo, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service Australia
Phil Glendenning AM, Director, Edmund Rice Centre & President, Refugee Council of Australia
Paul Power, CEO, Refugee Council of Australia
Aran Mylvaganam, Tamil Refugee Council
Brendan Doyle, Secretary, Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group
Margaret Hughes Bennelong Friends of Refugees & Amnesty International Australia
Anthea Vogl, National Convener, Academics for Refugees
Jessie Taylor, President, Liberty Victoria
Dr Safdar Ahmed, Artist and Director, Refugee Art Project
Emeritus Professor Alison Mackinnon, AM, University of South Australia

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US network The Real News Network interview on Erik Prince in Afghanistan

My interview on US news program The Real News Network on Blackwater founder Erik Prince and his vocal desire to privatise the war in Afghanistan:

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Not welcoming Donald Trump to Australia

Malcolm Turnbull may just have been replaced as Australian Prime Minister by Scott Morrison – a man with blood on his hands over his disgraceful treatment of refugees many years ago – but this publicly-released letter that I’ve signed still stands:

An alliance of organisations and individuals have formed the Unite Against Trump Alliance to begin coordinating a protest against US President Donald Trump when he visits Australia in November. The following statement, initiated by outgoing NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, is being circulated for sign-ons in the lead up to the protests that are being organised across the country including in Cairns, Canberra and Brisbane.

To sign on to the statement, visit the Unite Against Trump Sydney page.

***

Disgracefully, Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has invited US President Donald Trump to visit Australia. This is likely to occur after the APEC summit in PNG in November.

Donald Trump is a racist, misogynist, lying billionaire who is trying to drag global politics to the far right. His brand of extreme nationalism, Islamophobia, greed, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-LGBTI, anti-union and anti-environment rhetoric and policies are abhorrent to the majority of the Australian public.

The Turnbull government has aligned with Trump’s bigoted and militaristic global agenda at every opportunity. We want to see Australia distanced from Trump’s values. His values do not represent the interests of most people on the planet or the planet itself.

More than ever we need to join together in Australia and across borders to struggle for a world that respects the equal rights and wonderful diversity of humanity, protects our fragile environment and equitably shares the enormous wealth all around us.

We call on Malcolm Turnbull to rescind Trump’s invitation to Australia and for the parliament to prohibit him from speaking if his visit goes ahead.

We pledge that if Trump does visit we will meet him with mass demonstrations to show our opposition to everything his Presidency stands for.

Signed:

Lee Rhiannon — Greens Senator for NSW

David Shoebridge — NSW Greens MLC

Sydney Stop the War Coalition

Imogen Grant — President, University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council

Stephen Smyth — President CFMEU QLD Energy and Mining Division

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) NSW

Professor Raymond Evans — Griffith University

Jeff Sparrow — author and journalist

Antony Loewenstein — author and filmmaker

Stephen Jolly — Yarra Councillor and president of Victorian Socialists

Aran Mvlvaganam, Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson and Finances Sector Union organiser

Michael Thomson, NSW National Tertiary Education Union secretary

Craig McGregor, Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association secretary (VAHPA)

Latin American Social Forum (LASF)

Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance councillor, Moreland City Council, Victoria

Victorian Socialists

Hersha Kadkol — National Ethno-Cultural Officer National Union of Students

Jasmine Duff & Kim Stern — National LGBTI Officers, National Union of Students

Zac Solomon — President UNSW Students’ Representative Council

Stuart Traill — Electricity Supply Industry Coordinator ETU (QLD and NT Branch)

Dr Peter Slezak — academic UNSW

Hanan Dover — Muslim Community Advocate

Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA)

Lucia Sorbera — Senior Lecturer and Chair of Arabic Studies Department University of Sydney Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH)

Sydney University Education Action Group (EAG)

Nick Reimer, academic University of Sydney

University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council

Mark Pace — National Union of Students president

Leonie Hendricks, Retired NSW NMA state secretary

Lisa Milner, academic Southern Cross University

Leonie Hendricks, Queensland Greens/CPSU organiser

Jenny Haines, academic UTS

Jacob Grech, Renegade Activists

Barbara McGrady, Indigenous photojournalist

David Brophy, Academic University of Sydney

Kirra Jackson, Vice President UTS Student Union

Pauline Pants-down

Tim Nelthorpe, NUW organiser

Patricia Cornelius, playwright

Michael Schembri, advocate Finance Sector Union and gay left activist

Grandmothers Against Detention

Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP)

Close The Camps Action Collective

Cathy Peters, Convenor Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine

Michael Brull, writer

Lizzie O’Shea, Social Justice Officer

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

UNSW Education Collective

Palestine Action Group, Sydney (PAG)

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NPR covers the growing trend of offshoring refugees in remote locations

The 21st century sees many nations looking for ways to punish, isolate and deter refugees (while often contributing to the reasons these people are fleeing in the first place through wars and occupations).

I recently published a major investigation in US magazine The Nation on how Australia is inspiring the EU and others over its draconian refugee policies.

NPR in the US has featured this reporting in a story written by Isabella Alexander:

Key parts of Europe’s new plans have a controversial precedent — in Australia.

Antony Loewenstein, a reporter who has spent the past several years investigating Europe’s move toward externalized border controls, revealed in June that officials from individual European countries and the EU had secretly met with Australian officials about their refugee policies.

As part of a complex system established by the Australian government in 2001, migrants and refugees who were imprisoned in privatized detention centers on the Australian mainland were increasingly sent to small Pacific islands that border the country — Manus in Papua New Guinea and the nation of Nauru.

Although access to these centers has been tightly controlled, reactions from the international community have grown louder as news from the inside slowly trickles out — stories of routine abuse, rape and death from beatings or suicide. Australia, which campaigned for three years to gain a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council, received a scathing report from the council during its first week in session in 2017. In a 20-page exposé, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, detailed a system of abuse designed to punish and use migrants as an example to deter future ones.

“It is not because [the refugees] are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers we [have] to deprive them of the product,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a phone call with President Trump in 2017, according to a transcript in The Washington Post. The product he was referring to is their basic right to seek asylum.

According to Loewenstein’s reporting, European officials were looking to adopt a similar practice.

If Australia, a democratic nation signatory to international human rights conventions, has successfully outsourced its processing centers with no concrete outside intervention, what is to stop Europe, which receives significantly more migrants, from doing so?

European leaders have an opportunity to learn from Australia’s human rights failings and avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of establishing similar processing centers outside of the bloc in North Africa.

Read the whole piece.

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US network The Real News interview on UAE using mercenaries in Yemen

My interview on US network The Real News about the United Arab Emirates using private, military contractors in the horrific war in Yemen and the involvement of Australia and the US:

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The ingredients of timely investigative journalism

Richard Keeble is one of Britain’s leading journalism academics and he’s taught at the University of Lincoln for many years. Author of seminal books on reporting, his latest, just released work is co-edited with John Mair and it’s called, “Investigative Journalism Today: Speaking Truth to Power“. It features a range of writers exploring the importance of investigative work from the English and non-English speaking world:

Rumours of the death of investigative journalism have been greatly exaggerated. This book is proof enough of that. Examples from the corporate and alternative media across the globe highlight the many imaginative and courageous ways that reporters are still “kicking at the right targets”.

I’m honoured that Keeble’s chapter positively interrogates my work, especially around disaster capitalism, and he’s allowed me to post it here: keebleloewensteinchapter

From the introduction:

Antony Loewenstein is an Australian investigative reporter, freelance author, photographer, blogger and campaigner. He has written for a wide range of publications – both mainstream and alternative –such as the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, Green Left Weekly, New Matilda and Counterpunch. His books include My Israel Question (2006) and The Blogging Revolution (2008 and 2011). His 2010 ABC Radio National feature documentary, A Different Kind of Jew, was a finalist in the UN Media Peace Awards. And his book, Profits of Doom: How Vulture Capitalism Swallowing the World (2013) has been followed up with a documentary film, Disaster Capitalism, about aid, development and politics in Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea.

Profits of Doom also serves as a useful case study to examine Loewenstein’s investigative strategy in more detail. As this chapter will argue, Loewenstein draws creatively from a wide range of genres –peace journalism, investigative reporting, literary, long-form journalism, counter journalism and activist reporting – making his reportage both important and original. In particular, the study will focus on his investigative techniques, his ideological/political attitude – and his distinctive investigative writing style.

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The importance of strong encryption

Today NGO Digital Rights Watch launched an important campaign that I was asked to support. Very happy to:

Today, a global coalition led by civil society and technology experts sent a letter asking the government of Australia to abandon plans to introduce legislation that would undermine strong encryption. The letter calls on government officials to become proponents of digital security and work collaboratively to help law enforcement adapt to the digital era.

In July 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference to announce that the government was drafting legislation that would compel device manufacturers to assist law enforcement in accessing encrypted information. In May of this year, Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor restated the government’s priority to introduce legislation and traveled to the United States to speak with companies based there.

Today’s letter (download here) signed by 76 organisations, companies, and individuals, asks leaders in the government “not to pursue legislation that would undermine tools, policies, and technologies critical to protecting individual rights, safeguarding the economy, and providing security both in Australia and around the world.”

“This is a really important issue for anyone who uses the internet to shop, bank or communicate – so basically everyone. Strong encryption is essential to the modern Australian economy, and it would be a mistake to deliberately weaken it,” said Tim Singleton Norton, chair of Digital Rights Watch.

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New Zealand outlet positively reviews Disaster Capitalism film

My film Disaster Capitalism with director Thor Neureiter continues to spread around the world. Thor was recently in Melbourne for the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and the film is screening soon in Australia, the UK and elsewhere.

New Zealand outlet Foreign Control Watchdog has published a review of the film written by Jeremy Agar:

Afghanistan

The years roll by but the news from Afghanistan scarcely changes. From the dry hills in landlocked Asia we glimpse mad mullahs shooting their rifles into the air. We see Humvees straining up a mountain pass and wait for the ambush. Underneath the banner news rolls through: a suicide truck has blown up a dozen pedestrians in Kabul.  

Few of the many disasters that our information screens send our way are as wearying as the scenes from this war, the one that 30 years ago was dubbed “the forgotten war” because sometimes, back then, it wasn’t getting much air time. These days we’re all too likely to hear the inevitable soothing words that follow from the President, but whoever he is this time, no-one is listening.

On comes an American general. Just a few more troops, he assures us, and all will be well. Just a few more years and we’ll deliver you a shiny new democracy. Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day.But despite the assurances of the nation builders, peace in Afghanistan hasn’t been built in centuries. The waste, the futility of it all has a cartoonish quality: the US Army as Homer Simpson; the jihadi as … Jihadi. Boring. We flick the channel to the newest cooking show.

It’s the lack of any of this tedium that makes Antony Loewenstein’s analysis so welcome. By steering clear from cliché we’re allowed to see Afghanistan as the sort of place – an open plain, not some dizzying crag – that is not all that different from some parts of Loewenstein’s native Australia, perhaps, or America. He gets driven just an hour from the capital and talks to some quite normal locals. They were promised decent jobs and social development from a mine. It becomes clear that the foreign corporation never intended to make good on the deal, and that the Government’s undertaking to hold the company to account was similarly fraudulent.

Back in Kabul Loewenstein seeks answers from the bureaucrats who oversee the mining industry, No, Mr X is unavailable; Mr Y is busy. Mr Z? No, it is not possible. Leave the building. In other words, standard obstruction, standard corruption. Afghanistan’s misery is not primarily religious or tribalist. It’s the lack of trust that spawns those reactions. Fanaticism and tribalism are the poisoned fruit that grow from the seed of betrayal.

Loewenstein is showing us that, far from being uniquely messed up, Afghanistan is a template for a more general failure. That the mining company happens to be Chinese is an additional advantage in that the offender is not wearing the usual black hat. Villainy is not the monopoly of swaggering Uncle Sam. Take unaccountable big money and a corrupt State and moral failure is universal.

A modernist Afghan is interviewed, putting the case for the US to remain. If the troops go, he suggests, the warlords will swarm into the vacuum and there will be chaos and killings for an indefinite period. But what’s the alternative? The Vietnam gambit was often “to destroy a village in order to save it” – that’s a quote from the 1960s, not a mischievous paraphrase – and killing in Afghanistan will beget only more killing. Maybe everyone else just needs to leave them to it.

Loewenstein tells us that the amount the US military has cost in Afghanistan is more than what it invested in Europe after World War 2. As his topic of disaster capitalism is to do with how the world’s bullies go about “making money from misery”, that might be a reason his treatment ignores all the fundamentalist mayhem.

The huge spend has been about resisting the Taliban and now ISIS – and before that, let’s not forget, the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, better known as the Soviet Union). As such, while the post-World War 2 Marshall Plan set the US up for global dominance and hastened Europe’s recovery, the misadventures in Afghanistan have been unproductive to a point that future observers might regard as inexplicable (even Establishment types are now saying that about the domino theories that launched the Vietnam follies).

Just as it’s more than a truism – more a platitude – that wars never turn out how the belligerents intended, so too are the conventional wisdoms that inform life at home a poor guide for how Johnny Foreigner will react to being invaded. He won’t like it. So, it is that while the wise men in Washington are accustomed to thinking in terms of spending money in order to achieve results, in Afghanistan the opposite occurs. More money and more soldiers equal more chances for cock-ups and corruption.

As a frequent US visitor puts it here: “The more I go, the less I see”. More money being poured into the sinkhole makes matters ever worse. As he notes, saving money takes too much time. We’re in a hole. Keep digging and we’ll find a way out. Duh (the joke is that sometimes you win even when you lose. Vietnam now is much as US warmongers would have hoped it would have turned out to be had they won the war).

Haiti & Bougainville

Loewenstein’s other visits were to Haiti and Bougainville. In the former, US cash was meant to aid recovery from a devastating 2010 earthquake. This was very much a Clintonian intervention. We see Bill and Hillary in all their smarmy complacency rabbiting on about an investment zone where their corporate mates provide factory work for locals at five dollars a day. But the enterprises are not where the quakes struck. There, nothing has changed.

The final stop is closer to Loewenstein’s Aussie home, where another mining giant, Rio Tinto, has left a ruined landscape and a shattered society. Villagers faced a basic dilemma, one that confronts all such ravaged places: Do they want the mine to reopen so that they have a job, or do they want it to remain closed so that they can somehow, sometime, recover a stolen identity? It’s a fitting place to end this skillfully constructed doco.There is one final deft detail, tying the themes. Just as we’re given Afghanistan minus the hackneyed images, we see the usually ubiquitous Donald Trump only to conclude matters. He has spent one trillion dollars on mining ventures.

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Capitalising on disaster in the Trump era

My latest book, Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe, remains continually relevant especially in the Trump era (just a few examples in the news recently include Blackwater founder Erik Prince still obsessed with privatising the Afghan war and a CIA-linked military contractor making money from housing refugees in the US).

UK publisher Taylor and Francis, working with Routledge, recently launched a collection of essays around the issue of disaster capitalism across the world. My essay is adapted from the introduction to my book and updated to include the ongoing threats to making money from misery in the age of Trump.

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