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ROGUE: Thornley is going to a “Better Place”

evanthornleytherogueEvan Thornley’s most passionate desire – to constantly prove himself to be the smartest person in the room in the style of other McKinsey alumni at Enron – got the better of him when he told his Labor colleagues that while he couldn’t tell them where he has going to in the private sector, he was going to “a better place” where he could “continue” his work for Labor values from outside the Parliament.

VEXNEWS has learned and the Sunday Herald Sun’s ace investigative journalist James “The Inquisitor” Campbell has extracted a no-denial comment from Thornley’s spokesperson from the ACTU’s favoured spin-doctor EMC, in the person of Liz Lukin, that Thornley is going to a company going by the name of, you guessed it, Better Place. Click here for their site.

We understand that Better Place intends to appoint Thornley as its Australian Chief Executive, or at least intended to do so until Thornley’s bizarre political self-immolation. We believe he has been offered attractive terms to invest in the Australian venture and possibly also in the parent company.

The company makes electric car batteries and provides a system for re-charging and swapping over charged batteries for uncharged ones.

Condemned as a “smart arse” and “grub” by angry former colleagues when told of Thornley’s plans, the fact Thornley had amused himself by telling his colleagues of his destination while not telling them speaks volumes for the intense contempt he held them in.

Campbell’s piece also reveals that Thornley has now officially resigned as a Member of the Legislative Council and as the Premier’s Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation. The Premier is believed to be actively contemplating vacancies for both positions. Ominously, Evan Thornley himself is believed to be encouraging one of his dinner-party buddies and former girlfriends to nominate for the post, in a move that could cause considerable resentment in party circles.

Labor’s moderate faction Labor Unity is expected to fill the vacancy – which would normally go the Socialist Left – because of it withdrew from the Albert Park preselection contest that saw the elevation of Martin Foley, union bovver boy and employer of one-time drugs vendor Simon Kosmer to the bayside seat.

It was in Thornley’s capacity as a government Parliamentary Secretary – to which he was appointed by former Premier Bracks who bumped Thornley into Parliament in the first place as a cover for his promotion of his then COS Tim Pallas – that the kleptocrat became aware of the company Better Place whose business model depends on millions of dollars of government assistance.

Thornley has already been actively helping the company from within government, assisting them in dealings with Macquarie Bank, with whom he has had a long relationship since they helped fund Thornley’s tech wreck Looksmart. Macquarie Equities clients in Australia purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Looksmart stock which became practically worthless within months. $2000 invested in the company by Macquarie clients then is worth a little over $10 today.

VEXNEWS has learned that Better Place Australia intends to operate from Melbourne and plans to draw on the federal government’s $500 million Green car fund and to also hit up state governments for assistance in rolling out.

Thornley has already been facilitating state government help, securing for them access to the Victorian Government Investment Centre and a glowing endorsement of the company from the Minister for Innovation Gavin Jennings (click here for video of him) and from Premier Brumby himself. Jennings said he looked forward to “any degree of collaboration” with Better Place.

We understand that Thornley had already commenced negotiations with Better Place about his involvement in their company in October at the time of Better Place’s launch where they announced Melbourne would be the location of their Australian HQ.

It is the sort of improper behaviour and poor corporate governance Thornley would loudly condemn in others. It is the kind of cosy deal that would have made Queensland’s Russ Hinze proud. Hinze was accused of using his government position to make himself private profit. Thornley stands accused of doing exactly the same thing.

Thornley’s once prominent position within Labor certainly presents those governments with a serious ethical issue as it they will be keen to ensure they are not seen as corruptly feathering the nest of their former parliamentarian who will use the knowledge and contacts he gained in office to squeeze out as much public money as possible for his company.

Little wonder Better Place has named its prototype vehicle “The Rogue”. Could they have had their future Australian boss in mind?

Not everyone is convinced Better Place is on the right track.

Critics point to the need to swap car batteries every eighty minutes as being “needlessly inconvenient” and certainly in a market like Australia it will make the car much less attractive beyond the latte curtain. In markets like Israel, an hour long drive is considered a big deal – indeed it can take you from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – but it isn’t such a long distance for Australian drivers some of whom will think nothing of driving from Melbourne to Adelaide or Melbourne to Sydney for a bit of fun. It’d be much less much if you had to stop every hour for a battery change. The cries of “Are we there yet?” would echo from the backseats of the electro-cars across the nation.

One environmental technologist slammed the company:

Agassi (Better Place) has simply not produced a viable, or even defensible
 technology for the electrification of the fleet. The idea of swappable batteries is old and just as harebrained now as it was when it was first suggested decades ago….And when 
batteries become quickly rechargeable, Agassi’s entire trillion
 dollar system becomes instantly obsolete, whereas the current system we have would simply find gas stations swapping out gas pumps for charging posts as the demand irrevocably shifts from gasoline to 

They say hybrid cars – including plug-in hybrids – offer as much energy economy without the need to create a nation wide network of charging stations and battery swap-over points.

An insightful VEXNEWS thought-partner pointed out to us yesterday when we discussed the issue that ultimately it might be a “real estate business” in the same way that airports, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and service stations are, in that the value of the Better Place sites will be much improved by the presence of a big-name tenant such as themselves.

Whatever the model and the opportunity one thing seems certain. For a politically minded chap, it’s nowhere near as interesting as one of the most interesting portfolios in the government, Industry and Trade. The revelation that Thornley intends to be involved in Better Place still leaves many scratching their head wondering what might be going on in Evan’s.

We have opined before about the importance of weaning Australia off oil. We import our supply from the world’s worst nations, fuelling dictatorships, terror exporters, plutocracies and the construction of ice-hockey rinks and shopping malls in bits of desert that would have been better off being left in their original duned form.

So while Better Place might be a dud, no doubt there’ll be others doing similar things to eliminate and reduce our dependence on dictator diesel. We hope so for geo-political reasons as much as environmental considerations. It’s all very worthy, no doubt about it. It’s taken the unique stylings of one-time crap-band drummer Evan Thornley to make this clean technology company look extremely dirty indeed.

Many Israeli companies are very hard-core and have little patience for the niceties of public relations and maintaining appearances. In this case, the company would do well to think again about appointing someone like Thornley. He will drive them off a cliff.

The Labor governments he intends to target to further enrich himself need to tread very carefully for fear of ending up in some fast-acting Evan Thornley Quicksand.


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  1. There could be a bad omen in this. When Van Nguyen, the hapless Australian citizen drug courier, was executed in Singapore, the executioner said he was going to a “better place.”

    Thornley needs to use his phrases and his company better, lest he be confused with mouthing comments from Singapore’s public executioner. Those people are about as popular as real estate agents and used car salespersons.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 4, 2009, 9:09
  2. I agree with you AL: Aussie drivers are not interested in electric vehicles – just look at how many of us are now driving SUV’s plus of course the low price of petrol (even when at $1.70pl).

    Heck – I recently traded in my 4cyl for a V8.

    Even if we wanted “eco friendly cars”(which if you judge by the sales of the Toyota Prius, we certainly don’t), they’d be suited only to local suburban travel and nothing more.

    They’d be completely useless for anything requiring cross-city travel.

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Thornley goes bust over this.

    Easy come, easy go. You deserve that fate Evan.

    Posted by Rampant | January 4, 2009, 11:48
  3. Andy, who is he putting about as a replacement? Not Julia ‘The’ Mason?

    Posted by Inquisitive | January 4, 2009, 13:17
  4. Thornley is going to a better place. Pity the fact that he did nothing to help the disabled get to a better place.

    The disabled have been treated so badly in the last ten years by Bracks and Brumby.

    They need a better place.
    Victoria unfortunately is not the better place

    Posted by hopeless | January 4, 2009, 13:25
  5. This will tie in nicely with clean brown coal for electricity generation, the other pie Mr Thornley has a finger in.

    Posted by Astounded of Melbourne | January 4, 2009, 13:29
  6. Better place is a big company that knows what its doing, as much as i love my V8, theres no reason why we cant also buy an electric car to do our daily activities.

    As far as i know, Evan had many contacts before he entered parliament, so its ridiculous to think that just because he was a PS that he privy to this info.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 4, 2009, 13:41
  7. San Francisco is a Better Place.

    Posted by McPerton | January 4, 2009, 14:04
  8. PLEASE, Victor be very careful if you have to bend over in San Francisco, ‘Ollies’ are everywhere there and they are much more menacing than Bogans.

    Posted by Fatty Doyle | January 4, 2009, 16:58
  9. Brilliant… the new moniker for number plates….

    Victoria – A Better Place

    Posted by Licenced | January 4, 2009, 17:40
  10. “Labor’s moderate faction Labor Unity is expected to fill the vacancy – which would normally go the Socialist Left – because of it withdrew from the Albert Park preselection contest that saw the elevation of Martin Foley”

    Fuck me you are an idiot.

    Bill and Steven tried to get Andrew Gaze into Albert Park because they LU didn’t have the numbers.

    Danby thought he had it covered, but then realised that all of his stacks live in Caulfield/Elsernwick. It sent shockwaves through his office when they found out that about 10% of the members in AP were LU people and, 40% were SL, 10% were independents and the rest made up their own mind.

    Danby didn’t have any good candidates in the area (after all his people are dead set gimps who follow a fuckstick). After Dick found out that the rank and hated his guts – Danby and LU were left with nothing but egg on their face.

    To say that LU pulled out is an absolute joke.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 4, 2009, 17:53
  11. C’mon Anonymous – don’t hold back. Tell us what you REALLY think…

    Posted by Rampant | January 4, 2009, 17:58
  12. Actually, McPerton has been bending over for years before Ollie came on the scene.

    San Fran wont be so much fun for Miss Jayne….

    Posted by Honeypot | January 4, 2009, 19:30
  13. Craig Langdon is the one doing the bending over in the Victorian Parliament.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 4, 2009, 20:59
  14. On the Federal scene no one ‘bends over’ like Chrissy Pyne and Chris Pearce.

    Posted by anon | January 4, 2009, 22:53
  15. There’s a better place for Thornley it’s called Barwon Prison which is where shysters like him should spend their days!

    Posted by Madam Lash | January 4, 2009, 23:47
  16. bring back sang nguyen, well known communist lover and bright boy!

    Posted by sexy boy | January 5, 2009, 7:22
  17. James Campbell is a former Tory staffer for Helen Shardey and dumb fat prick to boot

    Posted by loser hack | January 5, 2009, 10:33
  18. Not the nicest thing to say about JC, but the interesting thing was that his ‘piece’ (not the hairpiece) was entirely trumped by Stuart Rintoul in today’s Oz, who actually got the words of the dreaded Thornley himself. Having stories written for you- good networking.

    Getting the hated Thornley on the phone- out of JC’s league. For everything else, there’s mastercard.

    Posted by Anon | January 5, 2009, 11:20
  19. Campbell got the scoop and the girl.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 5, 2009, 16:03
  20. Come on James.

    The only scoop you’ve worked for lately is a scoop or twelve of ice cream.

    Posted by Anon | January 5, 2009, 16:09
  21. Correction: I have a cheeseburger in paradise. Repeat: Cheeseburger in paradise.

    Not too particular, not too precise. I’m just a cheeseburger in paradise.

    Posted by JC | January 5, 2009, 16:23
  22. 1 . Thornley under pressure to explain his “better place”
    Andrew Crook writes:

    The speculation that recently-resigned Victorian ALP Evan Thornley is planning to join Israeli spruiker Shai Agassi’s ambitious ‘Better Place’ electric car project is looking like the Christmas gift that keeps on giving for the Victorian opposition. Thornley’s coy party room pronouncement that he was about to go to a ‘better place’, without naming the firm, now looks more than a little churlish and threatens to call time on a stellar career that began in the cesspit of Melbourne Uni student politics.

    ‘Better Place’ has plans to replicate an Israeli network of car battery swapping stations here, a scheme that could easily fail, despite promises of millions of dollars in state and federal largesse. As parliamentary secretary for innovation, Thornley would have been intimately involved in the October launch of Better Place’s local operations attended by innovation minister Gavin Jennings. Better Place also stands to emerge a significant winner from Kim Carr’s $1.3 billion green car fund.

    This exclusive interview given to Go Auto magazine in December by Marshall Towe, Better Place’s global development manager, now makes for interesting reading:

    But he [Towe] said the strongest support came from the Victorian government and Premier John Brumby in particular for the plan, which will provide 250,000 charge stations around Melbourne by 2012.

    Brumby had a vision — there’s a car industry here — and they were extremely aggressive and supportive,” said Mr Towe. “They took the time to understand what we wanted to do, and we had the same response from the City of Melbourne.

    “For the next six to eight months, the most important thing to do is government relations policy.”

    To that end, the company is urgently searching for “a high-end CEO with vision, who knows government and business, and can champion the cause” before assembling the rest of the Australian team required to achieve the $1 billion roll-out.

    Who does that sound like?

    The Australian CEO would be expected to earn up to $700,000 a year, many times Thornley’s parliamentary salary, and could possibly include a multi-million dollar equity stake. Ironically, with Thornley’s name now mud in Labor circles, any promised Better Place subsidy could be under serious threat.

    Stuart Rintoul added some more intrigue in today’s Australian, recounting a trip Thornley took to Israel in March last year on behalf of Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce. At Better Place’s October press conference in Melbourne, Agassi fingered the AICC as a crucial factor in shoring up his Australian plans. In Thornley’s tour diary published on the AICC website, Thornley recounts a meeting with Zohar Zisapel of the RAD Group, who went to uni with Agassi and who together make up the fraternity at the core of Israeli business.

    It’s also worth re-examining the timeline that led to Thornley’s resignation. After Theo Theophanous was charged with rape on Christmas Eve, Thornley was immediately tapped to ascend to the Ministry. As late as 27 December, Thornley was still hitting the phones to secure support for his tilt. He announced his resignation just one day later on 28 December.

    The sudden about-face doesn’t seem to gel with the narrative that Thornley had been weighing the pros and cons of public life over many months. Instead, Crikey understands Thornley may have been engaged in a stand-off with the Premier, who while backing him for the Ministry, failed to guarantee him Theophanous’ coveted number one position in Northern Metropolitan or, alternatively, a safe lower house seat. Thornley only just squeaked home in 2006 from second position in Southern Metro and given the ALP vote will almost certainly slump in 2010, he could have found himself out of a job.

    There’s now massive pressure on Thornley to explain, from his hideaway in the south of France, the full extent of his talks in Israel and Melbourne and the circumstances in which a Better Place job offer may have been made. The outcome could be devastating; both for his storied reputation and a Brumby government unused to the stench of cronyism that has engulfed the other Labor states.

    Posted by crikey junks previous suck up to Thornley policy | January 5, 2009, 16:26
  23. Nothing as is as ex as an ex.

    Posted by pret de porter | January 5, 2009, 16:27
  24. There was no stand-off between Thornley and Brumby, once a Minister Thornley would have been found a safe seat, most probably Oakleigh when that snoozer Ann Barker farked off. Now that prize will go to Minister Pakula.

    Thornley had a brainsnap, midlife crisis, whatever you want to call it.

    Posted by julia gizard | January 5, 2009, 16:29
  25. Note: This story, like all my others, may contain only traces of my own work.

    Thanks Helen.


    Posted by Not from Argyll | January 5, 2009, 16:47
  26. lol @ kosmer the drug vendor…go Andy!

    Posted by squeaky | January 5, 2009, 19:49
  27. you don’t have to be a brown nose to get to a better place

    but it helps

    As the Victorian constitution is an act of Parliament, if both houses got together they could rename VICTORIA


    Did you get a vote on the changes to the upper house voting system?
    No Bracks and the ALP gave us what they wanted.
    The Victorian Parliament can change any LAW, and the people (Victorians) can’t do a thing about it.

    Its just hopeless.

    Posted by hopeless | January 5, 2009, 21:13
  28. Victoria will soon be a better place. Once the GTM Express arrives at Spring Street, stopping all stations along the Eastern corridor.

    Posted by Railyard Worker | January 5, 2009, 22:05
  29. Teryy Mulder is such a dumbass. Stop embarrassing him here. He might start to believe he has a chance.


    Posted by Choo Choo | January 5, 2009, 22:52
  30. Paluka in the lower house says julia gizard, dream on, why would he give up his new found number 1 spot? lower house seats under 12% require a lot of hard work, upper house mps just arent up to it.

    Posted by Kev | January 5, 2009, 23:59
  31. Andy, did you know that c*nt was going around to branch meetings (usually with a staffer in toe) sprooking these stupit batteries!!! what an utter f*ck whit

    Posted by disgruntled branch member | January 6, 2009, 0:01
  32. Do a Google/YourTube on HHO and you will see the future or alternatives for Oil based transport. Hydrogen cells is the way forward. Not electric cars. Of course the distribution points of battery exchanges will require a mobile army of trucks that would keep the RACV busy at the best of time rescuing stranded flat battery vehicles stalled on the road.

    Posted by Hydro baby | January 6, 2009, 0:12
  33. “So far most electric cars have been appalling little plastic snot-boxes that take all night to recharge and then take half a minute to reach their maximum speed of 40 and then run out of juice miles from anywhere” James May, Top Gear

    Posted by Top Gear | January 6, 2009, 0:33
  34. I am the real Choo Choo. The GTM will make an excellent Leader of the Liberal Party and Premier. Bring on the GTM Express.

    Posted by Choo Choo | January 6, 2009, 9:03
  35. Don’t forget me I have many hidden talents and not only up my skirt.
    I make all the boys go :/

    Posted by Inga Binga | January 6, 2009, 23:01
  36. Why do we allow GOVERNMENT MONEY to be given to these business people?

    If any GOVERNMENT MONEY goes to a BETTER PLACE it should be as

    (a) a loan to be repaid
    (b) an investment in the comapany wich if successful can be sold. (aka TELSTRA)

    Just whose money is it to give away.

    But then the LABOR and LIBERALS govern for the GOVERNMENT not the people.


    It’s hopeless

    Must be hopeless but what is the GTM express

    A new form of locally grown coffee no doubt, or is it what falls out the back of a BULL

    Posted by hopeless | January 7, 2009, 7:50
  37. Maybe the Green Car Fund has overlooked true Aussie talent in building these EVs. Case in Point http://www.evme.com.au

    Posted by Texan | March 24, 2010, 16:08


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