Australian PM defends secrecy over border protection policy
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended the government's secrecy over its border protection policy on Thursday after reports that boats had been turned back to Indonesia and asylum-seekers mistreated.
Under the conservative government's hardline Operation Sovereign Borders, officials refuse to discuss "operational matters".
This has meant reports that at least one boat was forcibly turned or towed back to Indonesia, and that members of the Australian navy subjected those on board to verbal and physical mistreatment, have not been addressed in detail.
The government has also refused to confirm or deny that it is planning to buy 16 hard-hulled lifeboats to ferry asylum-seekers to Indonesia, sparking claims from the Labor opposition that it is overseeing a "Stalinist"-style media blackout.