Tony Abbott's suggestion that his paid parental scheme would encourage educated career women to have children has sparked anger online, with some accusing the opposition leader of sexism and classism.
Mr Abbott told reporters on Tuesday that the coalition's paid parental leave scheme would benefit women in the prime of their life, who should be able to have both children and careers.
"We do not educate women to higher degree level to deny them a career," he said.
"If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well, we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so. That is what this scheme of paid parental leave is all about."
But the remark raised a backlash on social media sites, with some questioning exactly what he meant by a "woman of that calibre".
The hash tag, a slightly different version of his quote - #Womenofcalibre - began trending highly on Twitter.
"I am deliberately barren, I doubt Tony even thinks I'm a woman let alone a #WomenOfCalibre luckily I couldn't give a rats arse," said one person on Twitter.
Another added: "You've got to hand it to Abbott. Takes rare skill to be sexist and classist with only three words. #auspol #womenofcalibre."
The comments echoed remarks by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, who said Mr Abbott had offered an insight into "his lack of respect for low-income workers and women in particular".
She added: "Who exactly does Mr Abbott think are women of calibre? What does he think about women who are childcare workers, nurses and community sector workers?"
But the opposition leader had his backers online too.
"Anyone who finds this offensive is clearly incapable of expectations and self respect," a female Twitter user said.