(Image: EPA/Szilard Koszticsak)

Tony Abbott -- fierce protector of a woman's duty to bear children and defender of the middle-class -- has called on middle-class women to have more kids, saying the current fertility rates for this demographic are a "real problem".

The former prime minister and, how could we forget, former minister for women, told audiences at the Centre for Independent Studies: "That is a real problem in every western country: middle class women do not have enough kids. Women in the welfare system have lots of kids. If you're very wealthy you can afford to have as many kids as you want.

Abbott was speaking at the book launch of Restoring Hope: Practical Policies to Revitalise the Australian Economy, by his former chief economist Andrew Stone.