He has also pushed a "tow-back" policy that would see asylum seekers' boats turned around when it is safe to do so.
Dismissing the climate debate as faddish and fashionable, Abbott has vowed to roll back the controversial carbon tax put in place by Gillard, which he has condemned as "socialism masquerading as environmentalism."
He has pledged to get rid of the 30% mining tax introduced by Labor, saying that it is a serious disincentive to investment in Australia's booming commodities sector.
On social issues, he has remained true to his Catholic faith, consistently voting against relaxing abortion laws, same-sex marriage and stem cell research. He has stated that he wants abortions to be "safe, legal and rare." As health minister in 2005, he opposed the use of the abortion drug RU486, but it was later overturned by parliament.
Australian journalist David Marr, author of Abbott's latest biography "The Making of Tony Abbott," says the leading contender to become Australia's next prime minister is nothing if not the sum total of his contradictions.
"He is a highly successful, aggressive, populist politician but all throughout his career he has argued there is another side to him -- that there is a deep commitment to values -- and they are very traditional Catholic values," he told ABC's Question Time.
However, he added that while his values informed his political views, he was able to shift and adapt them to prevailing political reality.
"There's no occasion in his political career where those values have stood in the way of his politics. When it comes down to it, Tony Abbott is an absolutely secular politician."