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Senior navy officers and customs officials face possible disciplinary action over six incursions into Indonesian waters while turning back asylum-seeker boats under the government's border protection regime.
A brief, unclassified report into the territorial breaches released on Wednesday found there were mistakes made by sailors on board the navy and customs ships and that these were compounded by a lack of oversight from staff in the headquarters of the Operation Sovereign Borders taskforce.
The incursions happened because personnel had not properly calculated where the 12-nautical-mile boundary to Indonesian territory lay. The report offered no explanation as to what the ships were doing when they inadvertently entered Indonesian waters, but Fairfax Media understands they happened while asylum-seeker boats were being turned back.
It pointedly noted that the navy commanding officers of the ships involved ''had received the requisite professional training and experience to be aware of the operational implications'' knowing precisely where the limit lay.
However some blame was placed on headquarters, which while knowing the importance of respecting Indonesian territory, had ''effectively devolved the obligation to remain outside Indonesian waters to vessel commanders''. The mistakes could, therefore, have been largely avoided by ''appropriate control measures''.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said it would be a matter for the chief of navy, Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, and the senior officials responsible for the taskforce's headquarters as to whether people were disciplined, including possible demotion. But a source told Fairfax Media: ''This is bread and butter stuff. Knowing where the boundaries are would be regarded as pretty basic seamanship.''
The inquiry report recommended that Admiral Griggs ''consider each incursion … with regard to any individual lapses in professional conduct''.
It made a similar recommendation for the heads of the chiefs of Operation Sovereign Borders headquarters.
The six breaches between December 1 and January 20 have caused political upheaval for the government, provoking anger from Jakarta and forcing Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior ministers to apologise.
Mr Morrison told ABC TV on Wednesday he accepted the review's recommendations. He said the government had behaved in a ''forthright'' way about the incursions and that Indonesia had been advised about the outcomes of the review.
As an archipelago, Indonesia's boundaries are regarded as difficult to calculate.
Customs commanders did not have the same training as the navy commanders in calculating the limit, the report found - indicating they were less to blame.
The report found the government had made it clear that Indonesia's limit was not to be breached. However that order had to be balanced against carrying out operations safely. Sending asylum-seeker boats back safely is best done by getting as close to the Indonesian coast as possible.