Coalition backs down on "turn back the boats" policy

A MAJOR back-down on the Coalition's "turn back the boats" policy after a diplomatic stand-off with Indonesia has ignited Opposition attacks on the issue.

Labor leader Bill Shorten and Opposition front-bencher Richard Marles on Sunday hit out at the government, with Mr Marles labelling the policy "shot to pieces".

His comments on Sky news followed reports that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was forced to help a boat carrying 63 asylum seekers to dock at Christmas Island on Saturday.

Authorities in Indonesia had reportedly refused Australian authorities access to return the boat to the island nation.