Mr Abbott is continuing his political attack on the Government over the mining giant's decision to mothball a $30 billion expansion to its Olympic Dam mine, saying the mining tax and the carbon tax are partially to blame.
But BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers says the decision was forced by rising costs and weaker commodity prices, and had nothing to do with the mining tax, which does not apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.
"The tax environment for this particular project has not changed at all since we started working on it six or seven years ago," he said.
On 7.30 on Wednesday night Mr Abbott was repeatedly pressed on why his explanation for the BHP decision was different to that given by the company, and appeared to admit that he had not read the BHP statement setting out the reasons for the decision.
"I'm going on the facts that Marius Kloppers said today when he was directly asked if the decision on Olympic Dam was affected by Australia's tax situation and I'm going on the facts that are outlined in their results statement that they've issued. Have you actually read BHP's statements?" Sales asked.
Mr Abbott replied: "No, but I've also got again the statement of [BHP chairman] Jacques Nasser, who says, 'While we're still evaluating the impact of the carbon tax, but it just makes it more difficult'."
Sales then gave Mr Abbott another opportunity to clarify whether he had read BHP's statements.
"But hang on, no, no, you haven't read their statements today, but you're on commenting about what they've announced today and how the Federal Government's to blame for that," she said.
"Leigh, I didn't say that the carbon tax and the mining tax were solely to blame," Mr Abbott replied.
"I said that the carbon tax and the mining tax have created an environment where it's much more difficult for investments like this to go ahead.
"I bleed for the people of South Australia tonight because there's 8,000 construction jobs, 4,000 production jobs and 13,000 associated jobs that are at the very best on indefinite hold because of this decision."
But the following morning Mr Abbott said he had read the BHP document "about 3:45pm yesterday afternoon" before going on 7.30.
Asked by a reporter: "Then why did you say on ABC last night that you hadn't?" he replied: "I was responding to something Leigh had said about Marius Kloppers."
Read the briefing note for yourself here.
The Opposition Leader's comments have been pounced on by Labor ministers.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson said on Twitter: "Abbott finds Fifty Shades of Grey more interesting and relevant than a BHP statement on Olympic Dam".
Finance Minister Penny Wong earlier accused Mr Abbott of running "one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns that we have seen in Australian politics".
"I think it is surprising that someone who wants to be the prime minister of this country wouldn't even bother to read the statement that is as important as this one," Senator Wong said.
"Mr Abbott is saying to Australians, 'Believe what I say, even if it can't be true, but ignore everything that the BHP board and the BHP company have put out as their advice to the market and investors and shareholders about the reason they have delayed Olympic Dam'.
"It is a disappointing decision. I'm a South Australian, and I'm disappointed by it, as are all Australians," Senator Wong said.
"But to have the alternative prime minister putting forward a baseless proposition, not even reading the statement because he thinks it's in his political interest, really demonstrates what sort of character we have here."
But Labor has its own problems on the issue, with Senator Wong contradicting Resources Minister Martin Ferguson's earlier assertion that "the mining boom is over".
Some leading analysts fear the resources cycle will shift from boom to bust, as China's economy grinds down, and the fallout for Australia's economy and the federal budget could be severe.
This morning Mr Ferguson told AM that "you've got to understand the resources boom is over".
"We've done well. $270 billion in investment, the envy of the world. It has got tougher in the last six to 12 months," he said.
Senator Wong disagrees.
"We still have a lot of investment coming in to this country, about half a trillion dollars in the pipeline and more than half of that at the advanced stage," she told ABC News Breakfast.
"I think the mining boom still has a long way to run. But what I would say is that the Government has always assumed that the terms of trade would step down over time, that's what our budget is predicated on.
"I think Mr Ferguson was referring to when the terms of trade peaked, and that's factored into the Government's budget."
Mr Ferguson later released a statement saying he was not at odds with his Cabinet colleague.
"The commodity price boom is over, but in terms of investment in Australia the boom continues," he said.