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Sarah Harris: Happily frozen in Nippon Nikon time

FOR a time in the late ’70s our family made its home on a bluff overlooking Guam’s Tumon Bay.

Back then, the Micronesian island was the No.1 destination for Japanese honeymooners, who flocked there on Western-style white wedding packages.

From the hotels below, many couples espied the perfect vantage for wedding photographs and beat a path through the tropical undergrowth to summit on our front lawn.

There, the pretty little brides and their camera-slung grooms would politely await until they caught someone’s attention to “please, photo”.

In the autumn of ’79 I took dozens of photos of bridal couples poised like happy birds between sea and sky and — as a dubious return courtesy — they took dozens of me.

A photograph of the photographer was an unspoken part of the deal.

I imagined the presence of my lumpy teen self in the newlyweds’ albums being explained to bemused relatives from Akita to Yamaguchi.

“. . and this is the fat girl at the top of the cliff who takes photographs”.

Travelling along the Great Ocean Road last week I noticed couples of all walks stopped at lookouts taking their own photographs in that peculiar heads-tight-together-one-arm-outstretched pose of the phone camera.

With some sadness I realised the random helpful stranger who appeared in albums the world over had become redundant — the curled up corner of a memory, like the ghosts on a polaroid left too long in the sun.

But behind the shoji screens and across the tatami mats, the plump girl at the top of the cliff lives on.

Firies save “catastrophic” incident after truck catches fire at Faulconbrige

Quick work by Springwoodfirefighters stopped a potentially “catastrophic incident” this morning when a truck caught fire and ruptured both its fuel tanks at Faulconbridge.

Specialist hazmat workers from NSW Fire and Rescue only finished emptying the truck’sfuel tanks about 3pm today (Friday) following the incident at9.45am.

Inspector Josh Turner of NSW Fire and Rescue said quick work extinguishing the blazeby a Springwood NSW Fire and Rescue crew saved the ruptured fuel tanks from catching fire.

“Because of the ruptured tanks it could have been quite a catastrophic incident,” he said.

Inspector Turner said the truck driver noticed smoke filling the cabin as he was travelling west on the Great Western Highway. By the time he pulled over and left the vehicle, flames were shooting out of the exhaust.

“The fire totally destroyed the cabin and ruptured both fuel tanks,” said Inspector Turner.

Ahazmat team from St Marys was called to empty the fuel tanks and remove the truck from the scene.

The incident caused major delays to westbound traffic on the Great Western Highway.

A NSW Fire and Rescue team from Glenbrook also attended the incident.

An electrical fault was the likely cause of the fire.

The scene of the truck fire at Faulconbridge on Friday morning, February 22. Photo: Top Notch Video.

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A long way from the top

Swedish pop group Abba last performed in Melbourne 36 years ago — the last of three concerts at the Sidney Myer music bowl with almost 15,000 fans per show and almost as many outside the fence.

But, in more ways than one, they never went away.

Nor did the fans. Take Trish England for instance, dancing and grooving to all the hits — Ring Ring, Mama-Mia, SOS, Fernando, Waterloo — here at, um, the Grand in Cathies Lane, Wantirna South.

Well maybe it’s not exactly Abba, but for Trish and nine dedicated friends who’ve travelled from Wonthaggi, near enough is better than good enough. As the self-described Abba Groupies, they’re at their 36th consecutive performance by the Swedish quartet’s tribute band Babba.

No Babba show is complete, it seems, without the Groupies. Not only do they pile into a bus and pursue the act to every Victorian gig, they

synchronise their dancing and even their dress to what’s happening on stage. When Babba has a costume change, so do the Groupies — into identical outfits.

Plastic musical instruments are also part of their routine and it goes without saying that there’s an even distribution of blondes and brunettes.

Babba, one of the most successful of a number of Abba tribute groups, has the illusion down pat: the trademark hip-hugging sequined jumpsuits, the beards, the slick choreography, the soothing harmonies, even the effervescent Scandinavian accents.

“If you close your eyes, you would think they were Abba,” enthuses Ms England.

The respect is mutual: band member Michael Ingvarson, who plays Benny Andersson, says they keep a close eye on the Groupies. “It’s a sign we do a good job and they enjoy it and keep coming back. A lot of people over the years keep coming back.”

The two pieces of mutual affection might illustrate why the phenomenon of tribute bands seems to be growing stronger and stronger, in Australia and overseas. It might not be the real thing but it’s close — and familiarity breeds content.

There have been tribute acts since . . . well, since Elvis was in the building. In fact, Elvis tribute artists, or impersonators, are still probably the largest class of such acts. Possibly the first tribute bands — as opposed to impersonators — were those paying homage to the Beatles, such as the (unimaginatively named) Buggs.

The idea, of course, is to replicate, as closely as possible the look and sound of the originals, although the names are often appalling puns — the Fab Faux, ReGenesis and Fred Zeppelin. Most of the great names of rock over the past half century now have tribute bands or performers: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Queen, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Madonna, Oasis . . . the list goes on.

But the tributes — and fans — spill into a range of genres and not all of them pop or rock.

At the Cardinia Cultural Centre over the next few months, for instance, there’s an Englebert Humperdink tribute and others to Liza Minelli and Shirley Bassey, Doris Day and ‘the Queens of Croon’ such as Patti Page. That’s on top of the Ultimate Bee Gees and Ultimate Rock and Roll Show with ersatz Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash as well as Time Warp, a tribute to the Rocky Horror Show.

And, while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some acts add a twist to the tribute: Gabba performs Abba songs but in the style of the Ramones; there’s Mini Kiss, a band made up of little people; and a range of distaff

versions, such as the all-female AC/DShe, Aerochix, the Iron Maidens and Lez Zeppelin.

Australia has long been an epicentre of tribute. In 1997 the Sunday Times in London called Australia “the main cradle of the tribute band”. Journalist Tony Barrell claimed it was because “starved of big names, owing to their reluctance to put Oz on their tour

itineraries, Australians were quite unembarrassed about creating home-grown versions”.

These days one of the original Abba knock-offs, Bjorn Again, and acts like The Australian Pink Floyd Show now regularly perform in the UK.

Babba had its start in 1994, partly, band members admit, because of their physical resemblance to Agnetha, Frida, Bjorn and Benny — but also to cash in on the wave of nostalgia sparked by the release of Muriel’s Wedding and, earlier, the greatest hits record Abba Gold.

So before hitting the stage at the Grand, Michael Ingvarson pencils on a beard and straightens his hair to mimic Benny and he and James

Macdonald, as Bjorn Ulvaeus, slip into those Evel Knievel-like jumpsuits. Jacqueline Hamilton is a slim, tall brunette image of Frida Lyngstad and Kelly Wild her blond match as Agnetha Faltskog.

But that’s not all. They seamlessly segue from Oz to Swedish accents. “We just slip into the characters when we go on stage,” says Ingvarson. “It wouldn’t make sense to go out there and speak in an Australian accent.

“It’s not just a band, it’s reliving the Abba experience. We’re always refining our performance and trying to make it more like Abba. They were such great singers.”

There’s clearly a hunger for what they provide. About 450 fans flocked to Babba’s first show at the Central Hotel, Richmond, in December 1994.

“Our manager advertised the first show almost like we were an international act,” Ingvarson says. “By the third year we were doing 180 shows a year.” Now the four have more than 2500 shows under their sequined belts and performed at the closing

ceremony of the Masters Games in 2002 in front of 45,000 people.

It’s probably a 180-degree turn from Abba to AC/DC, but the latter’s tribute band, Acca Dacca, is another of Australia’s most popular substitute gigs. And lead singer Larry Attard was probably destined to front it.

In 1975 his band Snake supported AC/DC at two shows in Sydney and after the death of Bon Scott in 1980, the band’s Malcolm and Angus Young were spotted at a Snake gig, checking him out as a replacement. He was called in to Albert Studios in Sydney, but the job went to Brian Johnson — so that’s who Attard now plays in Acca Dacca. And loves it.

“No one can play AC/DC songs like they can, but Acca Dacca come damn close,” he says. “People actually want to come and see us and the elation on their face afterwards is great. It may be the AC/DC factor, who knows?

“We don’t really have to do very much extra. I am in a black shirt and cloth cap and the rest are in jeans and T-shirts.”

Attard says keeping Acca Dacca’s performances simple was vital. “We just play meat and potatoes rock ‘n’ roll really. We don’t let our crowds down. We get out there and play it like AC/DC would.”

In 2008 Angus Young paid Acca Dacca the ultimate compliment when he told German TV: “If you can’t see us, see Acca Dacca.”

Attard is incredibly proud of that. “He was virtually saying that AC/DC can’t play everywhere, so if you get a chance go see Acca Dacca.”

While AC/DC can’t play everywhere, the artists Joe Piastrino pays musical tribute to, for the most part, can’t play anywhere. He started off as an Elvis impersonator but decided there were so many of that original rock and roll ilk. Piastrino’s repertoire includes Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Drifters and most notably Roy Orbison.

His first Orbison tribute was in 2006 and now includes many of the trademarks Orbison was known for — the dark glasses, slick, straight hair, tassels and dark jackets.

“If you are going to be impersonating him you have to be as close as you possibly can. I don’t do Roy without the costume, it just doesn’t work.”

But it’s the music, the singing that transports the fans. “When you hit those high notes on the head it’s a real buzz.”

Piastrino says the emotion he is able to evoke from his crowds has “blown me away”.

“We’ve had ladies crying and men coming up to me saying that my song brought back memories. And that’s what it is all about.”

Acca Dacca’s James Mcintyre channels Angus Young.

Substitutes: Babba does their thing, like a certain Swedish supergroup.

Joe Piastrino invokes the late, great ‘lonely one’ Roy Orbison in his tribute show. Picture: Shawn Smits

Volgren bus dispute continues

WORKERS at a Dandenong South bus-making factory are expected to extend a six-month industrial dispute by voting down a pay offer on Thursday.

Many of the Volgren workforce — members of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union — downed tools for four work days in a row up until last Tuesday as part of the dispute.

Warren Butler, assistant national vehicle division secretary of the AMWU, estimated about 100 of the 120 workforce had joined the protected stopwork action.

Each day, a group of about 50 disgruntled Volgren workers held barbecues outside the factory’s Hammond Road fence.

Mr Butler said the main sticking point was proposed job classification changes that would cut new workers’ pay by 30 per cent.

“There’s important union principles at stake,” Mr Butler said. “They’re effectively taking us on a race to the bottom. It’s a tribute to our guys. They’ve got mortgages and it would have been easy for them not to worry about the workers coming through.”

Volgren’s general manager of sales and marketing Tony Kerr could not be contacted.

At the start of the dispute in August, he told the Journal that the bus-making market had steered downwards.

“The bus industry is having more difficult times. Governments aren’t spending the money they used to and there are significantly less buses being ordered than in the past five years,” he said at the time.

“Whatever the workers are being offered in the current business environment is better than being offered nothing and losing their jobs.”

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Cooking up a storm: Volgren workers during their four-day stopwork outside the factory in Dandenong South. Picture: Cam Lucadou-Wells

Filfthy over rockpool

I would not be surprised to be informed that the person responsible for the cleanliness and safety of the Cronulla rock pool has resigned, retired, gone on long service leave or won Lotto.

It is in a disgraceful condition and not just because of all the weed that has come in the last 10 days. Sand, slime and sharp barnacles are the main problems.

It has been reported online, and by phone to the council and mentioned to the lifeguards at Cronulla. Just go and have a look. Clean it or close it — please!

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‘Act on behaviour, not colour’

Bridging the gap: Interaction between police and young African-Australians is the subject of a critical new report, despite the work of multicultural liaison police. Picture Joe Armao/The AgeCOMPLAINTS of heavy-handed policing of African youth have “not completely gone away”, says a south-eastern community legal service boss.

Helen Yandell, director of Springvale-Monash Legal Service, was pleased with the “positive” response by Chief Commissioner Ken Lay to the issue last week.

“I think the instances have reduced but not enough for my liking. We’re hearing anecdotally that it’s still happening.

“Youth workers are still telling me these stories, and they’re not dissimilar to our 2009 report.”

The report Boys, you wanna give me some action: Interventions into Policing of Racialised Communities in Melbourne, co-authored by three community legal services including Springvale-Monash, found African young people claiming “racialised” treatment by police.

The report stated Africans were being excessively stopped and searched, questioned, asked for identification and asked to move on — more so than other cultural groups. In some cases they were victims of physical violence.

Last week, after an out-of-court settlement between police and a group of African-Australians alleging “racial profiling” and over-policing against them, Victoria Police’s chief commissioner Ken Lay acknowledged “some of our people have let us down”.

Chief Commissioner Lay announced a review into police’s public relations and multicultural training.

At the Dandenong-based Safe Suburbs taskforce, there is a sense of marked change — especially since moving from a “zero tolerance” to “firm but fair” approach to public disorder last August.

Acting Senior Sergeant Sam Knight, who heads the enforcement arm of the taskforce, says her members treat everyone equally.

“We have quite a good rapport with the African community. You come across the same sort of people and same sort of issues regardless of background.”

The Safe Suburbs taskforce has been credited with reducing public drinking and public robberies and assaults in Greater Dandenong since late 2011. Protective services officers have also becalmed notorious railway stations such as Dandenong at night.

Senior Sergeant Knight says out-of-control, unregistered weekend parties — many involving African and Pacific Islander groups — were the most pressing issue. Police are being called out to disperse crowds of hundreds of intoxicated people from about six parties each weekend.

Dreyfus attacks Nalliah over anti-Islam remarks

ISAACS MP and federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has condemned anti-Islam political aspirant Daniel Nalliah’s views as having “no place” in Australia.

Mr Dreyfus held up Greater Dandenong’s 150-plus nationalities as a “tremendous example of a modern, diverse and harmonious society”.

“We are a nation that believes everyone is entitled to a fair go — no matter what your background or religious beliefs,” Mr Dreyfus said.

Campaign launch: Daniel Nalliah last week. Picture: Wayne Hawkins

“Past mayors of Greater Dandenong have been of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faiths and I am proud to be part of a society that affords equality of opportunity to every individual.

“Multiculturalism is a fundamental part of our modern nation, and an example to the rest of the world.”

Mr Nalliah, a pastor of Hallam-based Catch the Fire Ministries, is president of Rise Up Australia Party on an anti-multiculturalism platform.

He said Mr Dreyfus was “out of touch” with most Australians, challenging the MP for a debate on multiculturalism.

“If you walk through Dandenong, you’ll find third and fourth-generation residents are moving out to Cranbourne, Officer and Pakenham.

“People in Doveton are too afraid to walk the streets at night because of gang fights.”

Mr Nalliah said he was praised by visiting anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders as an “asset to Australia”.

“He said to me you can say what you want because you’re an immigrant. He said he couldn’t say these things without being called a racist,” Mr Nalliah said.

Mr Nalliah has recently led protests against a proposed mosque in Green Street, Doveton.

This month, Rise Up Australia’s state branch was launched in Hallam by Mr Nalliah and climate change denier Christopher Monckton.

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A bone to pick with errant eateries

MONASH restaurants have the highest rate of offending against health department standards in the state, according to official figures.

The Department of Health’s register of convictions shows that five Monash eateries have been fined for failing to comply with food safety standards over the past 18 months.

In 2012, public health officers conducted 1151 inspections. Three businesses were prosecuted for unsafe food practices.

■ In Clayton, Moza Corner proprietor Kamal Dharmet was slugged with a $35,000 fine for failing to comply with the food standards code.

■ The proprietor of Choi Palace BBQ Restaurant, also in Clayton, was fined $20,000

■ In Glen Waverley, Spicy Fish manager Jimmy Wei Wang was fined $15,000, proprietor Global Oceanic Investments was fined $40,000 and director Li Qin Ding was fined $40,000.

A further four on-the-spot fines were also issued: two in Glen Waverley, one in Mulgrave and another in Oakleigh. The Department of Health was notified in each case.

Monash mayor Micaela Drieberg said the council inspected every restaurant in the city at least once a year.

“Our staff do take public health really seriously,” she said. “In serious cases, we can prosecute the owners of the business. In cases where there are serious risks to public health, the council does have the power to order that a business be closed temporarily until the problems are fixed.”

Businesses committing non-serious breaches are given orders by public health officers to comply with rules. Officers then conduct follow-up investigations.

“If the breach doesn’t pose a serious risk to health, businesses can be given up to 30 days to fix it,” Cr Drieberg said.

Despite the convictions, council staff believe it is safe to eat out in Monash.

“Restaurants can come good after a bad period,” she said.

“For example, Spicy Fish has passed several inspections by our staff in recent months.”

Industry hub ‘should be in Dandenong South’

AN advanced manufacturing precinct in Clayton proposed by the federal government should be shifted to Dandenong South, an industry peak body chief says.

Paul Dowling, executive director of South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance, said the innovation hub was best sited in manufacturing’s heartland.

He said there was a “clear disconnect” between manufacturers and Clayton’s research hub, which included the Australian Synchrotron, Monash University and CSIRO.

“You can’t have connectivity [between manufacturers and researchers] if you’re not among manufacturers and not visible to manufacturers,” he said.

“Research is often in an academic setting — it’s the last place manufacturers would go for.”

Mr Dowling said Dandenong South was centrally located for manufacturers in Kingston, Casey and Cardinia, and well connected to Monash and Knox via EastLink.

He was excited by the “big potential” of the government’s concept. Australia was in the bottom five in the world for connecting innovation and manufacturing, he said.

“It will make manufacturing proactive and not reactive. It will help us build a future in manufacturing based on new technology. It may not be the same sort of manufacturing as we currently see. We may not like it. The future is technology.”

The precinct plan is a major plank in the government’s $1 billion jobs and innovation policy announced last week.

A spokeswoman for Industry and Innovation Minister Greg Combet said Clayton was chosen because it had a strong manufacturing research and services base, but the precinct would also capture manufacturers in the wider south-east Melbourne region, including Dandenong.

“Manufacturers from around the country will be able to tap into the precinct and access its services and expertise.”

She said the government was consulting with stakeholders to sit on the industry-led board that would manage the precinct.

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Financial assistance for briquette customers

Businesses left in limbo by an eventual closure of Morwell’s EnergyBrix brown coal briquette factory have been given access to $5.5 million in Federal Government assistance.

In a visit to the Latrobe Valley on Friday, Regional Development Minister Simon Crean announced the Briquette Replacement Program, designed to assist EnergyBrix customers transition to cleaner fuel source alternatives.

Under the program, businesses will be eligible for rebates of up to $25,000, enabling them to obtain engineering and costing advice on possible alternatives, such as natural gas, while grants totaling $4.5 million over two years will assist non-manufacturing customers with capital expenses.

The announcement comes after the Federal Government awarded the ailing EnergyBrix power station $50 million last July to continue operating, which supplies steam to the briquette factory, buying time for customers to find an alternative fuel source.

“(Briquettes) are a crucial part of their operations, and currently, there is no alternative supplier of cost effective briquettes, so making the transition to other cleaner forms of fuel or feedstock will take time and investment,” Mr Crean said.

The Express understands EnergyBrix is moving to stockpile briquettes for a possible 2014 closure, allowing it to continue supplying customers after the ceasing of production.

Gippsland Greenhouse Produce manager Peter Hobson, whose hydroponic tomato operation purchases about 700 tonnes of EnergyBrix briquettes annually to fire its hot water boilers, said the pressure was on install a new heating system before EnergyBrix’s closure.

“Without those briquettes, our existing boilers will be redundant, so we have to install an entirely new system which is horrendously expensive,” Mr Hobson said.

After being quoted $850,000 for the installation of a 2.6 kilometre pipeline to give the farm access to natural gas, a price Mr Hobson said was “ludicrous”, he quickly began investigations into bio-energy, and is due to visit the United States and Europe later this year to inspect existing wood waste heating systems.

But at an estimated price tag of $400,000 to $600,000 to install wood waste boilers on farm, Mr Hobson said he needed all the assistance he could get.

“It’s a fair whack, but I suppose with the advent of carbon tax and all those sort of things, that’s the price we’ve got to pay to clean things up,” he said.

“I’ll be applying for these grants, absolutely,” Mr Hobson said, adding the Federal Government’s $50 million bailout package awarded to EnergyBrix power station last July was a saving grace for EnergyBrix customers.

“If (EnergyBrix) said they were closing their doors (last July), I would’ve been left high and dry,” Mr Hobson said.

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