Anthony Albanese says while a relationship with China will be challenging for whichever party forms government following the election, he would push to build partnerships with the United States and in Southeast Asia.
The first trip for whoever becomes prime minister at the weekend will be to the Quad meeting next week in Tokyo with counterparts from the US, Japan and India.
But the Labor leader says his focus will shift towards Indonesia if he forms government.
"Indonesia is a really important partner for Australia," he said.
"That has been the case for a number of decades and as a minister in the former government, I went to Indonesia more than any other country.
"Indonesia will grow to be an economy that's substantial in the world. We live in a region whereby in the future we will have China, India and Indonesia as giants.
"We need to strengthen that economic partnership and one way that we can do that is by strengthening people-to-people relations as well."
Mr Albanese says if elected he would organise a trip to Indonesia as soon as possible after returning from the Quad meeting on May 24.
But the prospective prime minister was more hesitant about building Australia's relationship with China when pressed on his diplomatic plan at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Asked if he would pick up the phone to President Xi Jinping, Mr Albanese pivoted towards the broader relationship with China as opposed to outlining his course of action.
"China has changed its position under Xi," he said.
"Australia has had to adjust to that and the relationship with China will remain a challenging one regardless of who wins the election.
"But I'll tell you what I will do if I have the great honour of leading this country - I will cherish relationships that I build, including reacquainting myself with President Biden next week if we're successful."
Asked about his national security approach, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a business lunch in Melbourne the government had been increasing defence spending to increase its clout on the international stage.
This had allowed Australia to facilitate and engage in discussions with partners like the US, Japan and India, Mr Morrison said.
"The steps we've taken ... have created a great counterbalance in our region for peace and stability," he said.
"But in order to have agreements like that, you can't just go and knock on Number 10 or the White House and say: 'Oh, please'.
"You've got to have a case and so as a government, we've been building that case for many years by (increasing) defence spending."
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.