NBN street cabinets 'hideous'
About 60,000 cabinets that look like stretched refrigerators will be installed on footpaths under the Coalition's national broadband network, bringing criticism from urban designers.
But opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said he had learned from the ''British experience'' where Londoners complained about bulky green cabinets blighting their neighbourhoods.
The telecommunications company BT, which built a fibre-to-the-node network similar to the one Mr Turnbull is proposing, has faced strong criticism over its ''street furniture''.
''Every generation of nodes is getting smaller,'' Mr Turnbull said.
Such nodes, which are needed to house electrical equipment and change the fibre to copper telephone lines, are still too bulky for some leading Australian architects and urban designers.
''Let me choose my words fairly carefully,'' said Professor Alec Tzannes dean for the faculty of built environment at the University of NSW, reviewing a cabinet designed by BT. ''I think it's hideous.''
Labor's NBN also requires 60,000 street cabinets, but they are shorter and about half the width of the cabinets required under the Coalition plan. Unlike the Coalition's cabinets, Labor's do not require power.
Philip Thalis, an Australian architect and urban designer, said the streets were ''already littered with such intrusive paraphernalia''.
''Do we really want an extra 60,000 blights across urban Australia?' Mr Thalis said.
''Would Malcolm Turnbull or anyone else want one in front of their home?''
The difference between the Coalition's cabinets and Labor's ''would not be so great'', Mr Turnbull said.
BT made similar assurances in a development application dated April 1, 2012.
These ''vital'' pieces of ''BT street furniture'' - green cabinets measuring 1.4 metres high by 1.1 metres wide - would consider ''building traditions, materials and ecology'' in their design, the document states.
Such promises were ''putting lipstick on a pig'', Mr Thalis said. ''It's a nonsense - so many planning reports contend that you can make the unspeakable perfectly palatable.''
Professor Tzannes agreed: ''I've never heard more drivel in my life. It's like somebody put a backyard storage unit out of Bunnings on the street.''
He suggested the Coalition should employ a design team to work with engineers on a more visually appetising solution.
Mr Turnbull's office responded that NBN Co would handle the selection of cabinets and would ''weigh the trade-offs between amenity, cost and performance''.