A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

Hey haters, Serco is just doing its best to make as much profit from misery as possible

Posted: 30 Oct 2011

As Serco continues to make money from Australia’s incompetent immigration detention centres, the company comes out swinging, claiming it cares deeply for “these people” (also known as asylum seekers) to Perth’s Sunday Times:

Refugee deaths in detention are just part of the migration service business, according to Serco, the company managing Australia’s detention centres.

In a rare interview, Serco Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia chief executive Bob McGuiness also rejected claims Serco was a secretive organisation.

“To be described as a secretive organisation I was completely gobsmacked, I find that astonishing,” he told The Sunday Times.

The company has drawn criticism for refusing to release many details of how it runs the country’s detention centres, while unions also critcised the WA Government’s decision to award the services contract for the new Fiona Stanley Hospital to Serco, saying privitisation would affect patient care.

Asia Pacific chief executive David Campbell said claims of secrecy were “nonsense” and came about because the company was often “contractually obligated” to not discuss its business.

Serco was in the spotlight last week after the Department of Immigration confirmed the eighth death in detention since August last year a 27-year-old Tamil man.

Mr McGuiness said it was “absolutely tragic”, but inevitable, when detainees died on his company’s watch.

“We do everything in our power to look after these people,” Mr McGuiness said.

“Is it in our power for no one ever to pass away under those circumstances? Actually no, it’s not in our power, we’re not God.”

But he said he got “satisfaction” knowing Serco provided the service because otherwise it “would not be done so well”.

But not everybody agrees.

“If they were a responsible company they should have said, ‘We don’t want any part in this’,” Refugee Rights Action Network spokesman Phil Chilton said.

He said the company had “plenty of other fingers in plenty of other pies around the world”.

To offer quality service, the refugee advocate said Serco would need to provide a psychologist “24/7″ to help deal with the mental- health issues.

United Voice union has argued that Serco also poses a danger to health care in WA because privatising services at Fiona Stanley could result in profits before patient care.

The $4.3 billion contract is Serco’s biggest in its 23-year history in Australia.

Mr McGuiness said he guaranteed cost cutting would not result in service cuts because the company wanted to continue its relationship with the State Government and expand its WA operations.

The hospital contract is being investigated by a parliamentary committee, which held its first public hearing this week and was unsuccessful at getting a variety of documents needed to confirm the deal’s “value for money”.

Serco Group, which is the London Stock Exchange-listed parent company of Serco Australia, recently told shareholders the contract would create $30 million to $50 million in revenue in its “pre-operational phase”.

“From the opening of the hospital in 2014, annual revenues will be approximately $A160million,” it reported.

Mr McGuiness would not stipulate its profit margin, but said Serco like any other business would want to make a “fair return”.

Mr McGuiness said Serco wanted to develop its health care, defence, custodial and transport businesses in the region.

Reassuring all empire-watchers; Obama loves spreading the power far and wide

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 06:33 AM PDT

Any illusions about the American empire’s footprint reducing in the Middle East is fictional. Washington is keen to more closely partner with any dictatorship it can. But of course this isn’t meddling, it’s just what empire’s do. Note this irony-free comment in a lead New York Times piece that details the Obama administration’s desire to build a physical presence on the ground in a range of brutal states (all in the name of moving towards democracy, clearly):

“We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Tajikistan after the president’s announcement.

The Guardian editor on Wikileaks, phone hacking and being a digital-first group

Posted: 30 Oct 2011

Normalising Zionist occupation by oh-so-lovely fashion shoot

Posted: 30 Oct 2011

The current issue (Issue 44 Nov/Dec 2011) of Frankie magazine, a magazine aimed at young Australian girls, has on the back page a full page advertisement headed “Israeli Girls”:

The text reads:

Shai and Shelly on a Dead Sea Road Trip

Both girls work at our store in Tel Aviv. Shai is 18 years old and was born and raised there. She loves the beach, playing guitar, doing yoga and watching movies. She’s been working for the company for a few months, and is preparing to serve in the Israeli Defense Force. After the army, she plans to pursue a career in photography. Her favorite American Apparel style is the Flannel Shirt.

Shelly is 20 years old and has been with the company for about two years. She enjoys painting, making clothes and relaxing at the beach. Next year she will begin school to study fashion design. Currently, she’s obsessed with her American Apparel 3D Mesh Jumper.



Such advertisements play a key role in glamourising/normalising Israel and the IDF while, almost subliminally, linking Israel with the US. Occupation, violence or racial discrimination are ignored.

Write to the magazine’s editor (Jo Walker: [email protected]) telling her that such material shouldn’t fool the readers and depoliticise Israeli actions.

English Defence League reveal appeal of fascism

Posted: 29 Oct 2011

Racism is on the march across Europe (including with the recent Norway massacre by Anders Breivik, covered in the new e-book, On Utoya):

Libya is now land of business opporunities

Posted: 29 Oct 2011

Well, that didn’t take long. Even before Gaddafi was found and murdered, Western businesses were dreaming of the huge profits that could be made. Disaster capitalism on crack.

Now, in a front page New York Times story, the joys continue:

The guns in Libya have barely quieted, and NATO’s military assistance to the rebellion that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafiwill not end officially until Monday. But a new invasion force is already plotting its own landing on the shores of Tripoli.

Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners.

A week before Colonel Qaddafi’s death on Oct. 20, a delegation from 80 French companies arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council, the interim government. Last week, the new British defense minister, Philip Hammond, urged British companies to “pack their suitcases” and head to Tripoli.

When Colonel Qaddafi’s body was still on public display, a British venture, Trango Special Projects, pitched its support services to companies looking to cash in. “Whilst speculation continues regarding Qaddafi’s killing,” Trango said on its Web site, “are you and your business ready to return to Libya?”

The company offered rooms at its Tripoli villa and transport “by our discreet mixed British and Libyan security team.” Its discretion does not come cheaply. The price for a 10-minute ride from the airport, for which the ordinary cab fare is about $5, is listed at 500 British pounds, or about $800.

“There is a gold rush of sorts taking place right now,” said David Hamod, president and chief executive officer of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. “And the Europeans and Asians are way ahead of us. I’m getting calls daily from members of the business community in Libya. They say, ‘Come back, we don’t want the Americans to lose out.’ ”

Yet there is hesitancy on both sides, and so far the talk greatly exceeds the action. The Transitional National Council, hoping to avoid any echo of the rank corruption of the Qaddafi era, has said no long-term contracts will be signed until an elected government is in place. And with cities still bristling with arms and jobless young men, Libya does not offer anything like a safe business environment — hence the pitches from security providers.

Like France and Britain, the United States may benefit from the Libyan authorities’ appreciation of NATO’s critical air support for the revolution. Whatever the rigor of new rules governing contracts, Western companies hope to have some advantage over, say, China, which was offering to sell arms to Colonel Qaddafi as recently as July.

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