Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Australia would do well to strengthen ties with Britain.

Returning from annual leave on Thursday, Mr Abbott gave a short speech in Sydney to introduce British foreign secretary William Hague who had been invited to deliver the fourth John Howard address at the Menzies Research Centre.

Australia and Britain shared an "enduring community of interest and values", he said.

"Both countries appreciate that you do not win new friends by losing old ones."

Britain was the second-largest direct foreign investor in Australia, the nation's largest trading partner in Europe and the sixth-largest economy in the world.

Mr Abbott said Mr Hague, a former Conservative opposition leader, was a role model for him in a similar way to former Australian prime minister John Howard.

He said Australia's Liberal party and the Conservatives shared the same approach to government.

"Our two political movements instinctively support policies which protect the family, which support small business and which uphold traditional institutions," Mr Abbott said.

"The liberal part of our soul wants smaller government, lower taxes and greater freedom.

"The conservative part cherishes the family and values the institutions that have stood the test of time."