THE Greens have called on the Abbott government to explain reports of a Customs officer allegedly paying people smugglers $30,000 in cash to return a boat carrying asylum seekers back to Indonesia.
Fairfax on Wednesday reported an Australian Customs official paid the crew the cash to turn around a boat of 65 asylum seekers trying to get to New Zealand in May.
The Indonesian police chief on Rote Island reportedly said six crew members were given $5000 cash each to turn the boat around, and the crew were arrested and were being processed over people smuggling offences. While Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the claims were not true, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has called on Mr Dutton to explain what happened.
Sen Hanson-Young said the government needed to give a "full account" of what happened and "thorough investigation" was needed into the claims.
"If these claims prove to be correct then the Australian Government is directly financing crews on asylum seeker boats not to come to Australia," she said.
The reports come a day after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, had returned to the south-east Asian nation.
Mr Grigson was withdrawn from his post for about a month in protest at the execution of two Australian drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.