No answer from Bishop on boats

There is no explanation of whether Australia paid cash to an asylum boat crew in correspondence from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to Indonesian officials, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir says.

Ms Bishop’s letter was handed to her counterpart Retno Marsudi from Ambassador Paul Grigson on Friday.

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“When we did not receive any new information or any clarification, again, like I said, we cannot be blamed for taking the view that there was an illicit payment made to the smugglers,” Mr Nasir told reporters.

A boat captain and five crew members are being questioned by police on the Indonesian island of Rote for aiding 65 people who wanted asylum in New Zealand, and say an Australian official paid them cash to turn back to Indonesia.

Ms Retno asked Mr Grigson to seek an explanation of the claims on Saturday, before she left for meetings in Norway.

He visited her office for about 20 minutes on Friday, their first formal get-together since returning from his recall over Indonesia’s execution of Bali Nine drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

“Australia remains very committed to cooperation with Indonesia to combat people smuggling in all its forms,” Mr Grigson told reporters after the meeting.

“As my prime minister has said repeatedly, … Australian officials have always acted within the law in this case.”

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