Prime Minister John Key says he has no knowledge of whether Australian officials paid people-smugglers to turn around a boat of asylum seekers who were trying to reach New Zealand.

The asylum seekers have claimed that crew members on the boat were paid by Australian border patrol officials to turn the boat back to Indonesia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not confirmed or denied the claims.

Mr Key said this morning he found out about the alleged payments through the media.


"I don't have any knowledge or information or anything other than what I've seen in the paper," he told Radio New Zealand.

He said New Zealand officials had discussed the boat of asylum seekers with their Australian counterparts, but only in relation to its movements and its capabilities.

The Prime Minister's only advice was that the asylum seekers were attempting to reach New Zealand and that the crew and the boat were capable of making it from Indonesia to New Zealand.

"It was only around the logistics of the boat, nothing else," he said.

Asked what he thought about paying off people-smugglers, Mr Key said: "I can sort of see the argument both ways. On one hand there is the issue of flooded boats - and you don't want that happening.

"But I think the counter-argument of course ... would be that my view and I think most people's view of people-smugglers is a very poor one.

"These people that prey on people that are in a very difficult position, who are vulnerable and who are desperate.

"So if you start paying them yourselves ... you are paying people that are we don't have a high regard for."


He would not comment on whether it was acceptable practice because it was currently a "hypothetical" situation.

Mr Key reiterated that he had no advice that any New Zealand official knew of any potential payments to the crew of the boat.

The boat was carrying 65 asylum seekers and was believed to have set off from West Java on May 5.

After it was turned around by Australian border patrol, it crashed onto a reef on a remote island in West Papua