After six years of centre-left government by the Labor Party (ALP), Australia is under new leadership. The right-wing Liberal-National Party (LNP) Coalition led by Tony Abbott swept to power in Canberra in federal elections on Saturday.
With broad bipartisan agreement on the fundamentals, foreign and defence policies were not major issues during the election campaign. However, with the LNP in power, some differences are likely in the way in which Canberra relates to the region. This could include greater emphasis on bilateral relations, particularly economic and trade issues, and reduced sensitivity to regional concerns, including people-smuggling and border protection.
Bipartisanship was most evident with defence policy. Both sides of parliament expressed a commitment during the campaign to return defence spending to 2% of GDP, although neither had a clear idea of how to achieve this. The LNP is generally committed to current defence force development plans. However, it intends to have a fresh look at the two "big ticket" items _ the new submarine programme and Australia's participation in the US Joint Strike Fighter project.
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