An Indonesian official has criticized Australia's prime minister as "unethical" for sidestepping allegations the Australian navy paid the crew of a boat carrying 65 migrants to return to Indonesian waters.

Tony Abbott did not deny the payment claims in a radio interview Friday. He said officials are being "incredibly creative" in responding to asylum seekers.

Agus Barnas, spokesman for Indonesia's coordinating ministry for political, legal and security affairs, said Abbott's comments could be interpreted as endorsing bribery and might encourage people smuggling.

Australia has a policy of turning back and refusing to resettle any migrant who arrives on its shores by boat.

The boat's captain and five crew members say they were each paid $5,000 after being intercepted by an Australian navy ship on May 20.