Morrison lifts veil on boat secrecy

Scott Morrison says at least 12 asylum-seeker boats have been secretly turned back this year.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has lifted the veil of secrecy over the government's border protection crackdown, admitting 12 asylum seeker boats had been turned back to Indonesia.

The admission coincides with the first anniversary of Operation Sovereign Borders on Thursday.

Just one boat carrying 157 people reached Australia between December 19 and May, compared with the 268 that arrived in the same period the previous year.

Mr Morrison is unwilling to brand the venture mission accomplished.

"This mission is always ongoing, you must be eternally vigilant," he told ABC radio on Thursday.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek seized on the timing of the disclosure.

"I'm surprised that something that was an 'on-water matter' just a few weeks ago is now on the front page of a newspaper," she told ABC radio.

Of the 12 boat turn backs, six had occurred while Australian authorities accidentally breached Indonesian territorial waters.

Four turn backs had involved the use of lifeboats.

Australian co-operation with Malaysian, Indonesian and Sri Lankan authorities had stopped 45 boats carrying 1673 people with 214 people smugglers arrested.

"That's what a regional solution looks like," Mr Morrison said.

He rejected claims the policy has damaged Australia's standing internationally saying the asylum seeker boats were no longer a distracting issue.

"The issue of border protection is no longer dominating discussions with our regional partners," he said.