Australia apologises after vessels enter Indonesian waters

THE heads of Australia's Operation Sovereign Borders have confirmed Australian Navy vessels have entered Indonesian waters on multiple occasions since the operation began, breaching the government's own policy.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and OSB Commander General Angus Campbell fronted the media today, confirming some details.

The pair confirmed that at least one Navy vessel had entered Indonesian waters on numerous times, over more than one day, in recent weeks.

However, despite Gen Campbell first saying that a "passage of vessels" - admitting multiple ships had entered  Indonesia's sovereign space - he later denied the confirmation, saying only that "vessel or vessels" had crossed the border.

Mr Morrison confirmed he found about the incidents on Wednesday at 4pm, after Gen Campbell had confirmed the multiple breaches of Australia's border protection policy.

Neither OSB leader would provide further specific details of how the breaches occurred, when, or by how many different  vessels.

However, they did admit multiple instances of crossing the border since the operation began, were not known to operations staff in Canberra until checks were made on Wednesday.

Mr Morrison said the government had already sent an informal apology to Indonesia's Foreign Minister Dr Marty Natalegawa, who was on a flight and uncontactable at the time the incidents were confirmed.

The revelations of the Australian Navy vessels crossing the border and breaching the government's policy came after Dr Natalegawa on Thursday warned Australia it was already "on a slippery slope" when it came to managing the border.

Mr Morrison said a more formal apology, through Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, would also be made, and he apologised directly to the entire Indonesian Government for the breaches.

Gen Campbell has referred the issue to the chief of the Defence Force and head of Customs for an internal investigation into how the multiple breaches happened.