Australia's Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, says there's an urgent need for a second Sydney airport, but he remains pessimistic it will ever become a reality.

The issue of a second Sydney airport has been debated for decades, but Labor and coalition governments have failed to progress it because of a feared backlash from voters near proposed sites who hold a 'not in my back yard' viewpoint.

The Howard government in 2000 abandoned plans to build an airport at Badgerys Creek and the New South Wales coalition government continues to oppose a second facility.

But the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments searched for a site, in the belief that a rise in freight and passenger demand in coming decades would require a second airport.


Albanese said analysis by his department showed a failure to add aviation capacity in Sydney would lead to a A$35 billion (NZ$45.3b) a year hit to the New South Wales economy and cost the state around 70,000 jobs.

"This is an unacceptable economic price to pay," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

"But it's avoidable, if governments are prepared to act in the national interest and acknowledge the reality that Sydney will need a second airport sooner rather than later."

The minister said he hoped a report being finalised by an independent task force on the issue would generate significant debate but not be mired in politicking.

"This isn't an issue about noise - it's an issue of economic necessity," he said.

Albanese said China was currently building dozens of airports and if Australia wanted to benefit from this it needed to act quickly to build capacity.

But he admitted that without a bipartisan approach to a new site he was "pessimistic" it could be achieved.