So it seems virtually certain now that it would have been an ASIS spy on board an Australian navy ship who was paying money at sea to people smugglers to turn back.
It's absolutely certain that both Coalition and Labor governments have used ASIS operatives on Indonesian land who would use cash to disrupt people smuggling operations (by paying for information, and perhaps even paying them not to leave?)
But rather than shrugging shoulders, I would have thought it is bleeding obvious that the use of payments to boats at sea is different from splashing around money on shore in disruptive operations.
The Indonesian government is not likely to be happy with either, but surely anyone with common sense, rather than the appalling excuse makers like Bolt, can see that tactically, paying smugglers who are at sea is a dumb idea, given it provides an incentive to start the journey (update: and presumably ensures that the smugglers have received money both from the "customers" and then the Australian government.)
And why would it harm a government to admit that its operatives have gone too far in this instance, and will be directed not to use such a tactic again?