Government denies shots were fired over asylum boat

IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison has denied Navy officers shot into the air during Operation Sovereign Borders, amid reports of just such an incident earlier this month near Christmas Island.

Fairfax on Thursday reported an Indonesian police official, who did not want to be named, as saying a Navy "shot into the air just to scare them".

He reportedly told the media organisation the January 8 incident happened as Australian authorities moved to turn back the boat and return it to Indonesian waters.

But Mr Morrison said in a statement on Thursday that "no shots have been fired at any time by any person" involved in the government's operation.

He did not make any further comment on whether shot may have been fired by others involved in an incident, saying he would not comment on any specific allegation.

The reports sparked outcry from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who said servicemen and women were caught up as "meat in an Abbott-Morrison secrecy sandwich".

It also came as ABC reported Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Marty Natalegawa, saying the confirmation that Australia had bought lifeboats to use in the operation was a "slippery slope".

"Where will this lead to?" he told ABC.

"It's one thing to turn back the actual boats on which they have been travelling but another issue when they are transferred onto another boat and facilitated and told to go in that direction."

Mr Morrison earlier this week confirmed the government had bought the lifeboats, but would not detail how they would be used in the operation, or why they were needed.

His office did not respond to further questions regarding the alleged incident.

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