SUPER-RAT: Yet another "star" candidate explodes, betraying the ALP, hurting the government

evanthornleyrat The predictable press reporting of what they claim as a humiliation of John Brumby by its ingrate ex MP Evan Thornley is probably a bit overblown.

Overblown but predictable. The big guns of the state gallery John Ferguson and Paul Austin filed from their holiday spots wearing boardies with Austin mentioning the term “egg on face” so often in his column that it was getting beyond a yolk.

Of course, the furore vindicated all those who expressed major reservations about Thornley from the start. Former business partners, many colleagues from student politics who’d been exposed to his unprincipled opportunism, unhappy shareholders in his notorious tech wreck Looksmart, disgruntled employees and then those unhappy with Thornley’s attempts to get preselected to a safe federal seat by means of cocktail party.

But while we here didn’t think much of the shareholders’ fiend, who turned a five billion dollar company into the tech wreck it continues to be today – valued at little more than its cash at bank – we thought it safe to assume that his ego was so connected to politics and to the ALP that he could never turn his back on either.

The suggestion that he found a job in France still seems preposterous, even though first reported here and almost certainly true.

His timing couldn’t have been any more insulting, undermining of the government or  calculated to cause significant harm.

Evan Thornley has been preoccupied by politics since the mid 1980s. He and his equally politically obsessed partner Tracey Ellery once talked of little else. Years before anyone had heard of Maxine McKew, the Ellerys had run the numbers in Bennelong and concluded it was winnable due to changing demographics.

While he watched over the boom and bust of Looksmart – raking off $100 million through cunning share sales at the top of the market – he was still obsessed with the ALP. Plans of returning to Australia to save Labor were constantly discussed in the Ellerys increasingly lavish San Francisco homes. He golfed with visitors like Senator Steve Conroy who understandably was attracted to a briefly billionaire potential donor who can’t putt.

Evan Thornley has now entered the ranks of Labor’s Hall of Villains populated by the likes of Mark Latham, Billy Hughes, Bill Hartley, Mal Colston and Sir John Kerr. Ego and venality combined in those cases to shock Labor to its core at just how much sharper than a serpent’s tooth it can be to have your own go rogue. Can the silly season get any sillier?

Upon Thornley’s return, he chose odd allies. People like Race Mathews, John Button. He colonised the Fabians and set up Labor thinktanks and a non-factional faction. Many of his peers who’d stayed in the political game while Thornley chased the bright lights of McKinseys and a doomed internet venture thought his clueless enthusiasm amusing and some even worried he was coming after their seat.

It amounted to nothing. But then he was saved just prior to the preselections for the 2006 state election. Premier Bracks wanted to appoint his COS Tim Pallas to a seat. He was on a promise. But for reasons we didn’t comprehend the Premier thought it made him look bad to put his own staff into Parliament. So he sought an outsider. A chat between then Premier Steve Bracks and Thornley at the Aussie version of the Davos conference on Hamilton Island confirmed the obvious, that Thornley was interested.

After that, the star candidate put in a less than stellar performance. He impressed upper house leader John Lenders but few else.

Thornley has turned his back on what has been much more than his hobby. He showed his true feelings to the Labor Party as he wiped his bum on its scarlet banner.

We feel like purchasing a range of “I told you so” merchandise to provide to a range of people who facilitated his rise.

But rarely does it feel so empty to be completely right. We published dozens and dozens of articles about Thornley’s shabby treatment of Looksmart shareholders and staff, his Captain Insano ideas like giving parents the right to sort of proxy vote for their children and mandating chess as part of the school curriculum, his secrecy in his pecuniary interest non-disclosures and had more to come.

Thornley’s interest in politics was ultimately highly conditional. He sought an easy path despite that only existing in Fantasyland or in the case of Nicola Roxon whose armchair ride into Club Fed still astounds observers. One of the wisest of his state colleagues reminds VEXNEWS “It’s a marathon not a sprint” and it seemed two years of long-distance running was enough. Either that or an unspeakable scandal spooked him beyond words.

Whatever it was, the Libs and press have made the easy point that this whole debacle is embarrassing. Indeed it is. But it doesn’t say a great deal about the mostly good government. It speaks chapter and verse about the failings of a man who despite making politics his hobby, despite hiring in Labor folk to craft the right rhetoric, was ultimately only attracted to the bright lights and easy pickings of public life.

Evan Thornley has now entered the ranks of Labor’s Hall of Villains populated by the likes of Mark Latham, Billy Hughes, Bill Hartley, Mal Colston and Sir John Kerr. Ego and venality combined in those cases to shock Labor to its core at just how much sharper than a serpent’s tooth it can be to have your own go rogue. Can the silly season get any sillier?

UPDATE: This morning’s Labor Unity Caucus meeting and the full caucus meetings were sombre affairs, with even the new Minister for Industry and Trade, Martin Pakula not looking particularly overjoyed by the unprecedented situation the government was put in by Thornley’s extremely weird departure.

In the Right caucus, the President of the Legislative Council, patriot Bob Smith spoke for many when he loudly expressed his contempt for Thornley’s lack of loyalty. “In these four walls, and I wouldn’t say it elsewhere, but what you’ve done is [expletive] despicable…” he is believed to have said. It was a fair summary.

Showing some courage, if not a strong sense of the bizarre, the now hated figure stood up before his Right colleagues and gave a little speech about how he looked forward to making an ongoing contribution to the Labor party “from outside the Parliament” by fighting for the values they all hold dear. The tut-tutting, eye-rolling and face-pulling was all that distracted from the stunned silence.

His odd remarks ended a stunningly, breathtakingly bizarre episode in Victorian politics.

There have been plenty of politicians who’ve left the Parliament because the chance at a Ministry was denied them or removed from them. But there has probably not since the founding of the Colony of Victoria been a member of Parliament whose resignation was – in whole or in part – prompted by the offer of promotion to a Cabinet post.

And while the Liberals and press are doing their job in a way by pointing out the major embarrassment at being ratted on by someone the Premier unwisely trusted, really it was hardly unreasonable for Brumby to assume Thornley’s ambition and interest in the role. When Thornley was asked he expressed great enthusiasm. He thanked the folks doing his numbers and smoothing the way as late as Saturday. He called people to lobby them as late as Saturday.  By Saturday night, he was telling the Premier he no longer wanted promotion and was leaving the Parliament. The weird thing here isn’t the Premier promoting one of his colleagues into an unexpected vacancy, it’s the vacancy of reason that positions a person into a seat in Parliament he seemed in retrospect to not want, not value or – for some secret reason – to not be able to serve in a senior capacity, if required.

This is a minor blip in the government’s fortunes. Pakula is a safe pair of hands who knows industry, manufacturing and business well from his time working hand-in-hand with employers and employees in those sectors as a senior union leader. He’ll do a good job.

And in the internal workings of their party, this is a minor incident too. Thornley wasn’t a factional player, he didn’t do much at all that impacted on his colleagues.

What this debacle does do is something we’ve been working on for a long time, expose the fundamental truth of a despicable human being. Worse than just merely selfish, venal and opportunistic, he’s distracted by the most glamorous shiny thing dangled in front of him at the time. He’d give up anyone or anything to pursue it too. And – if we take his words at face value – that is what appears to have happened here. After years of speeches and dozens of ghost-written essays about the failings of the ALP, Thornley proved himself to be a much less healthy beast than the nation’s oldest political party.



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43 responses to “SUPER-RAT: Yet another "star" candidate explodes, betraying the ALP, hurting the government

  1. Anonymous

    Congratulations Andrew. You said it all along that Thornley was a dud. Few people believed you. People went to hear his boring meetings advocating Labor First and strangely they didn’t pick it up. You did. Even Eric Dearricott fell for Mr Thornley and he got dudded. He woke up and said Landeryou was right all along.

    Your analysis of character Andrew is spot on.

  2. Anonymous

    A supporter of Marlene Kairouz in Kororoit rang ALP members in Kooyong asking them to support Mr Thornley for Conference Delegate. Mr Thornley won. How many people the man from Preston influenced we can only guestimate, but they could have put Thornley over the line.

  3. Anonymous

    A good reason to support Natalie Suleyman for the vacancy to be created by Evan Thornley.

  4. Tax Man

    Thornley’s Barbados tax shelters have piqued ATO/Austrac interest for some time. Is there another Labor MP facing criminal charges ?

  5. thornley

    French piquer, literally, to prick

  6. stinks

    Did I read correctly he identified a business opportunity from his work as Parl Sec for Innovation?

  7. stinks

    Isn’t that corruption?

  8. Haunted House

    It’s weird that he had not been consulted or talked to others before being offered a higher position. Yes there is something smelly about it all. You do not come within inches of a top job and then quit. Unless he was offered a portfolio not to his liking. Bottom of the ladder stuff. Asinof in the air says there is a skeleton hanging around and he was about to exposed.Maybe he raped a member of staff in the corridors in a drunken stooper.

  9. you read it here first

    Thornley dropped thirty million in the last year in investments. He’s not broke but is under pressure to make some more. Family first.

  10. Madam Lash

    Thornley does not want to be under the close scrutiny entailed by being a Minister. Prediction: Brumby will go next as he assures himself of super at the Premier’s rate. Watch out Hulls is on his way and then the Government will be well and truly stuffed!

  11. A thorn in Brumby's backside removed

    I have not sought, nor was I offered, a position in the Victorian cabinet, but I do feel that such a position requires a long-term commitment to political life that I am not in a position to give”

  12. Red Morgue Review

    What’s not reported and as equally interesting is that this will be the first vacancy in Victoria’s Upper-house under the new system of multi-member electorates. As I understand similar rules apply in filling the vacancy as is the case with the Australian Senate.

  13. Fran Levin

    Happy about Martin Foley being appointed to cabinet. Labor needs to spread the Minsters across the whole state if it is to win and keep the seats it needs to win and keep.

    Good move for Brumby.


    Wrong Martin, Martin Pakula has been appointed Minister for Industry and Trade. Martin Foley continues to serve as Member for Albert Park and employer of the entity known as Kosmer.

  15. Anonymous

    Suleyman must take Thornleys seat. The Right owes her.

  16. Suleyman Must Win

    Suleyman should get the spot, she is the best qualified to to join Brumby’s team. Why? Natalie Suleyman is under investigation for fraud, corruption and intimidatory behaviour while Cr for Brimbank, gave her father a community building rent-free for 4 years so he could set up an ALP branch-stacking factory, attempted to silence the community she represented with serial nuisance lawsuits and voted to close the community pool. Suleyman also helped Marlyn Zukalski bankrupt the Sydenham Community Centre to buy ALP memberships for her father.

  17. Anonymous

    your all stupid!!!
    there will be a count back its a upper house seat!!!

  18. anon

    Have a listen to all you fucking whinges…. ‘the right owe this person’….’the left owe this person’…..’the networkers are idiots’…etc, etc, etc, etc. WAKE UP everyone, the election is just over two years aways and and the party and the Government are imploding. By all means keep the irresponsible factional infighting going and you will be fighting over a postion in opposition !!!!!
    FOR FUCK SAKE, WAKE UP !!!!!!!!

  19. maintain the Thornley legacy

    Julia Mason is the right choice.

  20. no no

    Popular councillor Dick Gross is the guy…

  21. Anonymous

    17.36 should look at the legislation. Vacancies in the Victorian Legislative Council are filled in the same way as they are in the Senate. Vacancies are filled by a party appointment. It is therefore possible (I am neither in favour nor against) for Natalie Suleyman to be appointed by the ALP to serve the unexpired portion of Mr Thornley’s term.

    17.36 may be confused with the position in local government in Victoria. Here, where proportional representation applies in multi-member wards a vacancy is filled by a countback. The same applies to the Western Australian Legislative Council, the ACT House of Assembly and the Tasmanian House of Assembly. The Victorian Parliament supported the party method of filling vacancies, despite opposition from Independents Russell Savage and Craig Ingram.

  22. Sick of Dick

    ‘no no ‘you are fucking kidding – Gross turned the safest Labor strong-hold on the good side of the Yarra into a basket case.

    The man is a walking election liability.

    He couldn’t even beat Tony Lupton in a preselection battle and was humiliated in the Albert Park poll.

  23. Noel Jackson

    There won’t be a recount in t he upper house. The Electoral Act allows the party to choose a successor.

    As for who that will be, Suleman would be Labor’s last choice. Better to be either Henry Barlow or maybe even Newnham if he wants to jump ship.

    Personally, I’d back Henry. It would be 50c in the dollar for him after that fat blubbery chick from the Greens pipped him at the post in 06

  24. anon

    Alexandria Hicks would make a fantastic successor.

  25. hack

    What about that other gossip girl, Carla?

  26. Juffrey Gubb Kunnutt

    $10 on Newnham, regional Victoria’s friend. No comments about toenails from him. Labor will lose the spot in 2010 anyway.

  27. RDR

    Maybe the ALP will give it to a Liberal has been, dud.
    They have been overly generous to Fatty Doyle and McPerton recently, both two of the most useless specimens I have eber seen.

  28. ulysses pete

    What about Michael Kroger, I hear he has taken it in the ass this year, he might need the salary…

  29. Anonymous

    Jaala Pulford should get the nod.

  30. Anonymous

    LANDERYOU should fill the vacancy !

  31. Anonymous

    LANDER-YOU should fill the vacancy !

  32. anon

    Imagine Kroger, married to that stuck up town bike Annie Peacock who is an even bigger air head than Nicky Downer!

  33. Not a safe pair of hands

    Lenders needs to stand up and tell the world how he relentelessly promoted this pompus twit to the caucus and to a sceptical Premier.
    Now we have the specticle of the Premeir taking a hit for a gutless wonder in John Lenders. Lenders has a lot of explaining to do.
    Do the right thing Lenders and resign

  34. Brumby duped by Lenders

    The Thornley affair is a scandal of the highest magnitude. Its time John Lenders came out and admitted that he was the man that sold the idea of thornley to Brumby – now brumby and the entire government is paying the price.
    Come on John do the right thing.

  35. Jenny Lindell

    leave John alone if it not for he how would Roland and i pay the mortgage. John is a good decent man who looks after his friends.

  36. John Lenders

    You can all go jump.
    I will not take a hit for anybody. I will be Premier from the upper house.

  37. John Brumby

    now now johnny i am in charge here i will decide who the next premier of the state is – even if i am being dumped.
    i have a fantastic rich star candidate in mind to depose me.

  38. Justin Madden

    but i am not that rich

  39. Hakki Suleyman

    dont worry justin leave the money stuff to me brimbank council was a good investment.

  40. anon

    Unbelievable the hypocrisy of that obese, uncouth, alcoholic Les Twentyman.
    He calls a press conference (he loves self promotion and been in the limelight) to criticise Paris Hilton’s wealth and spending.
    This comes from the bloke who is married to a wealthy socialite, lives in a million dollar luxurious town house, can drink hundreds of dollars of wine in one hour at Walter’s and has never done a days work in his life apart from leeching off charities and the underpriviledged.
    Unbelievable, I am stunned at this vile pig’s outbursts!!!

  41. Lawyers @ 20 paces

    Yet another breach of your court order.. tsk tsk

  42. Sir Lesley Twentytonneguts HRH

    Can you please pass me the flagon and a straw?

  43. Nostradamus

    Les will have the pleasure of pissing on your grave, Landy!

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