Transport minister Anthony Albanese says those who oppose the expansion of Australia's airports fail to grasp the economic benefits air transportation brings to the Australian economy.
As the rising middle class of emerging Asian economies such as China, India and Indonesia brought a new wave of travellers, Mr Albanese said Australia risked losing out to other countries unless its airports had the capacity to cater for the forecast growth in air traffic over the next two decades.
"The two biggest drivers of economic activity - and studies have shown this as well in terms of spin-off - are an airport or a university," Mr Albanese told reporters during a media briefing in Dubai on Wednesday (Dubai time).
"They bring high-skill, high-value jobs.
"In terms of the region where we are located, the opportunity for us is enormous."
A recent report from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) showed the number of passengers passing through Australia's airports was expected to double by 2030.
"Passenger numbers are forecast to increase by 3.7 per cent a year over the forecast period, from 135.1 million in 2010-11 to 279.2 million in 2030-31," BITRE said on November 13.
International traffic was forecast to grow 4.9 per cent per year over the next 20 years, with the number of domestic passengers expected to rise 3.3 per cent a year over the same time period.
The forecasts underscored the need for airports around the country to increase capacity, Mr Albanese said, given industry estimates that for every one million passengers, 1000 jobs were created.
"I think people don't quite comprehend there is an underestimation of, firstly, the extent to which aviation is a driver of economic activity," Mr Albanese said.
"Secondly, the extent to which this growth will occur regardless of anything else happening and thirdly the opportunity that's there particularly because of the region where Australia is situated."
Mr Albanese said he supported new runways at both Perth and Brisbane airports.
While in Dubai, Mr Albanese and Australian government officials toured the new Concourse A at Dubai International Airport - a purpose-built facility for Airbus A380 aircraft with 20 gates dedicated to the double-decker superjumbo - that was slated to open shortly.
The minister also held talks with officials from the United Arab Emirates, including minister for the economy Sultan Al Mansouri and Emirates Airline chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Makthoum.
The government has backed Qantas's proposed 10-year alliance with Emirates, which is currently being considered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
However, Mr Albanese said there were no plans to amend the Qantas Sale Act, which restricts the level of foreign ownership in the Australian flag carrier.
"We think that Qantas needs to maintain itself as an Australian company," Mr Albanese said.
"We don't propose any change to the Qantas Sale Act nor are Qantas asking for any publicly or privately."
* The reporter travelled to Dubai courtesy of Qantas and Emirates.