Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Vicki Wood

Abbott happy to be a closed book on turning back boats

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott said he was happy to remain "closed book" on the realities of the government's asylum seeker policies on Thursday.

Mr Abbott made the comment in his first interview of the year, given to 2GB Radio.

After reports the government turned back its first two boats in waters north of Australia in the past few weeks, Mr Abbott said the turning back policy was a "non-negotiable".

His comments followed revelations on Thursday that Indonesia's military had agreed to the turn backs, but the minister responsible had denied being aware of any such agreement.

Facing criticism for not providing information about such incidents, Mr Abbott said he did not want to "give rise to a whole lot of mischief making".

"And I'd rather be criticised for being a bit of a closed book on this issue and actually stop the boats," he said. "And that's the point; the point is not to provide sport for public discussion."

Mr Abbott's comments also followed ABC reports that two asylum seekers on separate boats had been mistreated by Defence staff.

That was a point Defence Force Chief David Hurley denied in a statement on Thursday.

He said the staff were trained to operate "with the highest degree of professionalism and integrity", rejecting the mistreatment claims.

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This poll ended on 31 January 2014.

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