The Australian navy opened fire on an illegal fishing boat after it tried to ram a patrol boat and its crew threw machetes at sailors, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said today.
Dr Nelson said the incident occurred in northern waters in the last month when the large, steel-hulled foreign fishing boat attempted to ram a patrolling naval vessel and refused to leave Australian waters.
"Missiles were thrown, including machetes, at Australian sailors and the chief of defence phoned me and asked me if they could undertake direct fire and I said 'yes they most certainly can','' Dr Nelson told reporters today.
Dr Nelson would not say what country the boat was from but said no-one was injured or taken into custody in the incident.
The West Australian newspaper reported today the navy had fired a short burst from a mounted gun, hitting an Indonesian vessel during a pursuit about a month ago.
The vessel had escaped to international waters after the incident, in which the navy had employed tough new rules of engagement aimed at driving illegal fishermen and people smugglers out of Australian waters, the newspaper reported.
Dr Nelson said the boat had not been seen in Australian waters since.
"Those people who come to Australia who want to steal our fish and breach our exclusive economic zone need to know that we are not going to muck about,'' Dr Nelson said.
"The Australian Navy is very serious in protecting our borders
I for one applaud this.
It's about time Australia got tough with Indo poachers.