Tony Abbott during the Coalition official election night function. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
As prime minister, it appears likely that Tony Abbott will consider foreign policy through a prism of arch-conservatism, as he views most other things. His orthodox conservative principles are only ever compromised when political expediency demands.
Until the situation in Syria momentarily nudged the nation's attention, there was no discussion of foreign policy during the federal election campaign - except for the embarrassing discussion on the potential impact the respective asylum-seeker policies might have on our bilateral relationship with Indonesia.
As prime minister, Abbott will need to work hard to repair the damage that was incurred during the campaign - a task that will be a priority.
Certain views expressed by Abbott before the campaign got under way, however, provide some insight into the foreign policy he might favour as prime minster.
It appears likely that the priority Abbott would place on a particular bilateral relationship would largely depend on the level of cultural and political familiarity he has with the subject, rather than a clinical appraisal of our national interest.
The clearest indication of the philosophy that will inform Australian foreign policy under Abbott can be found in Battlelines, published in 2009. Passages on foreign policy made clear his strong committed to the ''Anglosphere''.
This commitment has also been evident in speeches and comments made subsequently, as leader of the opposition. Last year, Abbott unashamedly asserted that ''few Australians would regard America as a foreign country''.
In our regional context, however, Abbott's favour is likely to extend beyond the Anglosphere to those neighbours, such as India and Japan, which appear to share his democratic principles and pro-American orientation.
In Battlelines, a preference for democratic India over authoritarian China is evident. India was gratuitously included in Abbott's Anglosphere - no doubt an unwelcome proposition from India's perspective.
In 2011, Abbott stated that he viewed a potential free trade agreement with China with some scepticism, as he doubted ''to what extent China is a market economy''. According to Abbott, Japan's market economy and democratic system of government were ''advantageous in any serious person's view''.
Australia has enjoyed a strong and enduring relationship with Japan since the end of World War II. It has become increasingly evident to serious observers, however, that the current government in Japan has a strong ultra-nationalist undercurrent. Japanese ultra-nationalism was discredited immediately after the Pacific War, but has returned to a position of strength.
Japan's democratic system and particular variant of market economy (the principle complaint of successive American administrations in relation to Japan was that it was not an American-style market economy) make it appear to be a natural partner. Abbott should, however, be wary of other characteristics of the government presently ruling this important bilateral partner.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, is part of the hard-right faction of the Liberal Democratic Party founded by his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi - a ''Class A'' war crimes suspect until his release from Sugamo Prison. Kishi later became Japan's 56th prime minister.
Abe has in the past questioned if Class A war criminals judged in the Tokyo tribunal should be considered war criminals before domestic law. He has also questioned the extent to which coercion was applied towards the ''Comfort Women'' during the Pacific War, and expressed other revisionist sentiments. His views, publicly expressed on many occasions in the past, have infuriated both China and the Koreas.
Abe's Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso, suggested a few weeks ago that Japan should learn from the example of Nazi Germany in implementing a constitutional revision with limited public debate.
This comment passed virtually unnoticed in the Australian media. A European leader guilty of such revisionism would be immediately and universally condemned - and would certainly be forced to resign.
The rhetoric and policies adopted by the Japanese government pose a risk to harmonious relations in Asia. Abe has adopted an uncompromising approach to territorial disputes with neighbours - disputes that could be resolved over time on the basis of negotiation and mutual agreement. A potentially dangerous confluence of shared positions between Abbott and the hard-right Japanese government in respect to regional relationships could well emerge.
The Japanese leadership certainly shares Abbott's preference for India over China, albeit for vastly different reasons. In spite of the markedly anti-Asian flavour of the xenophobic nationalism emerging in Japan, India remains a darling of the Japanese extreme-right. Many of Japan's neighbours hold a strong memory of Japan's actions during the Pacific War, but Japanese nationalists have always been heartened by the fact that India's sole representative at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East trials of Japanese war crimes, Justice Radhabinod Pal, was the only jurist who submitted a judgment insisting that all defendants were not guilty.
In a speech Abe made to the Indian parliament in 2007 during his first stint as prime minister, he praised the judge for ''the noble spirit and courage he exhibited'' during the trial. It appears that the admiration between the two peoples is mutual. In a recent opinion survey conducted in India on the image of Japan, it was identified as India's third-most-important partner. Since the Pacific War, India has benefited from the highly effective exercise of Japanese soft power. In 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauded the role of Kishi when prime minister as instrumental in India being the first recipient of Japan's development aid. Abe believes that India and Japan share strategic interests vis-a-vis China, and sees India as critical to Japan's regional design. Since he returned to office, India and Japan have significantly strengthened their ties.
Prime Minister Singh signed several arms deals on a visit to Japan earlier this year, and agreed to further joint naval exercises. He described Japan as a ''natural and indispensable'' partner. Abe asserted that the two democracies, ''India from the west and Japan from the east'', must accept their responsibility for maintaining peace in the region.
Abbott would be attracted to both the narrative and strategic design to which Japan and India appear to be committing themselves.
The United States would no doubt encourage such a strategic design, even if it has also come to be concerned by increasingly zealous behaviour of its primary regional ally, Japan. Will Australia, representing interests of the Anglosphere, build on recent moves in this direction and become the democracy from the south to complete a triangle of nations responsible for ''maintaining peace'' in Asia? Although Australia is considered a small actor in both Tokyo and New Delhi, one wonders what impact this would have on our bilateral relationship with China.
China has reason to be suspicious of the array of bilateral arrangements emerging around it. India is wary of the threat China poses, but will balance its prudent strategic approach with a clear understanding of its long-term national interests. China, similarly, has invested heavily in India as part of its multi-faceted, long-term approach. China and India will share a border, an ocean and interests for a very long time.
In almost 2000 years of interaction between the two countries, there has only been one military conflict - a small border war in 1962. The unfolding balance of power in Asia, if it develops into a stable concert of powers, is natural and potentially a good thing for the region. Japan adopting a more independent foreign policy should not alone be reason for concern. Rather than define itself as a loyal servant of the Anglosphere, Australia should look to pursue a more independent foreign policy, based on our unique national interests and built on a solid understanding of current and historic contexts.
With these qualifications, Abbott is right to further develop Australia's bilateral relationships with both Japan and India, provided that this doesn't jeopardise ties with China, Indonesia and South Korea. We should never become embroiled in the historic enmities of our neighbours.
As prime minister, Abbott's narrow world view will be buffeted by the realities of international affairs. A delicate balance in the region is emerging, however, and he must continue to develop a nuanced and sophisticated approach to world affairs. He should resist all temptation to rely solely on a sense of cultural and political familiarity in defining foreign policy.
Andrew Hunter is chairman of the Australian Fabians.