Tony Abbott's push to cut immigration looks like it led him to reveal confidential budget discussions

Stefan Postles/ Getty ImagesTony Abbott.

Liberal backbencher Tony Abbott is currently campaigning for a cut in immigration, sparking a confrontation with government colleagues and treasurer Scott Morrison.

Abbott attempted to reboot his long-running call to reduce the country’s immigration levels this week in an address that called for a cut of 80,000 to 110,000 people as the annual intake, saying the current level was contributing to “stagnant wages, clogged infrastructure, soaring house prices and, in Melbourne at least, ethnic gangs that are testing the resolve of police”.

Central to Abbott’s argument is that “Net Overseas Migration that averaged 110,000 a year in the decade to mid-2006 has doubled to 220,000 a year in the decade since”.

Tony Abbott was prime minister from 2013 to 2015.

Yesterday Morrison, a former immigration minister, fired back, saying the current intake is the same as when Abbott was prime minister adding that “I don’t recall at any time there was any discussion that that should be lowered.”

Morrison went on to argue that Abbott’s proposed reduction could hit the federal Budget’s bottom line by around $4-5 billion over four years.

The treasurer said skilled migration would be hardest hit by Abbott’s plan, while family migration, “which ultimately gets more dependent on welfare” would become a bigger proportion of the intake.

The squabble is continuing for a second day after Abott said Morrison had been “captured” by Treasury.

“That is Scott’s problem – he has been captured by his department,” Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB, adding that “we can’t let the tail wag the dog”.

“We cannot let the Treasury’s accounting rules determine what is in our long-term and medium-term best national interests,” he said.

This morning Abbott’s barrages continue with the NSW MP turning to Facebook to claim Morrison had “conveniently forgotten the very vigorous discussion about cutting immigration that took place inside government” in the lead up to the 2015 Budget.

“Because we were achieving a reduction anyway I eventually decided not to adjust the official figure but I kept it on the table as I never accepted the Treasury orthodoxy that more migrants meant more growth and a stronger budget outcome,” Abbott wrote.

“If Treasury is right why not solve the deficit simply by ramping up immigration?”

Now the convention around budgetary discussions – the expenditure review committee is a cabinet committee is that they’re meant to be confidential, so Abbott as a former PM appears willing to breach cabinet confidentiality to score points over Morrison, who he said “should have the gumption to think for himself”.

We asked Tony Abbott if the discussions were part of cabinet considerations, but he did not respond.

Here’s his full Facebook post

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