A rising tide of scandal and public revulsion appears set to engulfs Labor’s most obnoxious and despicable power couple. Evan Thornley MLC – dubbed the “walkaway MP” in today’s press – and his domineering spouse/business partner Tracey Ellery could be the subject of public sector corruption queries following press speculation, Opposition questioning and complaints made to the Victorian Ombudsman this morning.
Ellery’s favourite expression – which relies on the barely literate woman’s poor grasp of the English language to be fully comprehended – is “Arrogance in adversity.” More than an expression, it’s her mantra, often repeated by Mr Thornley also. Some believe that approach will almost certainly lead the pair to decide to keep Thornley’s sleazy business dealings secret despite intense public pressure that he reveal the identity of the company(ies) with which he is in discussions and the nature of the business they propose to transact.
The two would condemn President Nixon (despite him ending a War and opening a historic dialogue with China) at dinner parties but they’d put the Nixon White House’s stonewalling and sleaze to shame.
CASHING IN KA-CHING
Thornley has refused to explain what employment/investment opportunity he has exploited from his time as the Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and the National Reform Agenda. VEXNEWS understands that he did not reveal to Premier Brumby nor to any other colleague the name of the company – believed to be foreign and possibly French – with whom he is in business. Sources familiar with the matter said Thornley won’t be saying anything until “it suits him or until the deal is ‘papered’ (signed).”
The Liberals are rightly furious, alarmed that a senior government figure could be acting corruptly, with The Australian reporting:
Liberal frontbencher Andrew McIntosh said John Brumby must name the company the millionaire Labor MP was going to and assure Victorians that Mr Thornley, previously parliamentary secretary to the Premier with responsibility for innovation and the national reform agenda, had not used his position and influence to secure “his new lucrative corporate position”.
Mr McIntosh said it would be scandalous if Mr Thornley benefited from privileged government information and “the longer Mr Brumby stonewalls on this, the more suspicious it looks”.
The would-be Liberal leader makes a compelling point. The people have a right to know. Of course it’s not Premier Brumby who is stonewalling. He cannot reveal what he does not know.
THORNLEY MUST DISCLOSE
The Premier all but said this when he told the non-holidaying members of the Press Gallery that he expected Thornley to make an announcement of his departure and future plans within “the next few weeks.”
The hard-working Stuart Rintoul and Gary Hughes who are keeping the home-fires burning at the Australian report:
With Mr Thornley, 44, refusing to discuss his plans for a return to the private sector amid speculation he was joining a “French company”, Labor insiders also expressed private fears that he might be headed to one of the companies locked in a bidding war to build and operate the state’s proposed $3.1 billion desalination plant near Wonthaggi — Veolia and Degremont.
That would be a scandal indeed.
If Thornley ever darkens the door of the Victorian government, we have a feeling a big Samoan bouncer will be engaged to drop-punt the ingrate the full distance of the Treasury Gardens.
And almost certainly a kiss of death for any such company engaging the man who is about as popular in government circles as a dead goanna in a water tank. Our old chum from the Crean wars, Stuart Rintoul continues:
Thornley’s decision to quit politics this week on the eve of his elevation into the Victorian cabinet has enraged some and confounded many within the Victorian ALP. One senior figure yesterday described the move as “without doubt, one of the most bizarre things we’ve seen in politics”, adding that “no one could have dreamed it up”.
Commenting on Mr Thornley’s return to the private sector, he noted that if the LookSmart co-founder cared about political connections at all then he had left “in the worst possible way”, with all his bridges in flames.
Except for the very kind-hearted nice guy George Seitz, there wasn’t a soul in the Labor Unity caucus who was favourably disposed to Mr Thornley after he threw his hand-grenade down John Brumby’s trousers. If Thornley ever darkens the door of the Victorian government, we have a feeling a big Samoan bouncer will be engaged to drop-punt the ingrate the full distance of the Treasury Gardens.
THAT WAS THEN
Among his backers in the Labor Party, the plan for Mr Thornley until this week was a large one: the dotcom millionaire would cut his teeth in the Victorian parliament, get some experience at cabinet level and then shift to the federal sphere.
If we define backers as the former Cain government Arts minister Race Matthews, yes, that’s all quite possibly true. Certainly that was Thornley and his wicked witch wife Tracey Ellery’s plan.
Thornley’s eyes of ambition were always vastly bigger than his vastly big belly. He didn’t just want Club Fed, he wanted the Lodge as well, inadequate housing though it might have been for the chap who set the record on Kew real estate with a $6.6 million purchase at the height of the property boom.
And simply it was never going to happen. Even those in the federal Parliament now must contemplate the serious possibility that Rudd will be re-elected and re-elected again. He’s no Bob Hawke we all think but continues to poll very well indeed. And of course Thornley isn’t in the federal Parliament, with incumbents likely to be cemented in until they wish to retire. The three occasionally considered prospects of Calwell, Wills and Scullin will – it seems – only become possible if the incumbents move on. So there’s not even the remote chance.
THIS SCANDAL IS NOW
Like a dog returning to his vomit, Thornley has reverted to his quest to get rich or die trying. The fact that he did so in the most obnoxious way possible says a lot about his character and strong sense of entitlement and smug superiority. Once he leaves politics the fact that he is an arrogant toad is his private business. But if he’s acted corruptly, exploiting “privileged government information”, secrets and influence in government to add to his cash stash then that is everyone’s business. He should be punished to the full extent of the law.
Thornley must disclose the detail of his proposed business arrangements.
And the Victorian Ombudsman should make him do so if he refuses and investigate the whole sorry saga thoroughly to ensure that Labor’s Lex Luthor isn’t planning to use the Victorian taxpayer to corruptly enrich himself even more.