And Education Minister Julie Bishop has left open the door for a return to physical punishment of students — backing autonomy for school principals to decide on its use.
Child protection experts branded Mr Abbott's ideas "dangerous" and "draconian", warning that using violence would not teach children that violence was wrong.
Teachers and a conservative family lobby group backed Mr Abbott's call for more discipline in schools — but insisted more funds for smaller class sizes were vital to give teachers more time to help children with behavioural problems.
Mr Abbott's remarks were prompted by mobile phone footage of a vicious attack on a Melbourne schoolgirl being kicked in the head by two other girls.
'We've taken corporal punishment out of the schools because we think that's brutal, and yet our playgrounds seem to be becoming more brutal than ever," he mused on the Today show.
Later, the minister insisted he was not calling for the return of the cane or the strap, but then went on to say there was a case for them.
Mr Abbott argued that "a lot of people think that sometimes you've just got to be able to give a short, sharp shock" and "it may well be that sometimes the only language that some kids understand is that kind of language".
But Labor's Deputy Leader, Julia Gillard, said: "I don't think that using violence for punishment teaches people that violence is bad."