Aust search planes to refuel in Indonesia

Australian search and rescue aircraft will be given "rapid clearance" to land and refuel in Indonesia under plans to boost co-operation between the two countries when dealing with asylum seeker boats in distress.

The Australian government will also provide Indonesia with improved satellite communication to improve its search and rescue capabilities.

Under a suite of measures announced in Jakarta on Tuesday, Indonesia's search and rescue agency BASARNAS will be given access to ship tracking technology to enable it to enlist the help of merchant ships.

There will also be an exchange of personnel between BASARNAS and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), and regular search and rescue forums.

The agreement to boost maritime co-operation follows a spate of incidents involving asylum seeker boats, including a vessel carrying 150 people that sank off the Javanese coast last week.

Up to 100 people are believed to have drowned after authorities failed to locate the boat. Rescuers did not begin finding survivors until almost 24 hours after a distress call was first received by AMSA.

Indonesia did not begin an aerial search until more than six hours after the alarm was first raised.

An Australian search and rescue plane was forced to return to base when it ran low on fuel.

It was revealed on Tuesday that Australian aircraft could soon be given clearance to land in Indonesia during search and rescue operations.

Both countries agreed to explore a system of "rapid clearance of Australian aircraft to operate in Indonesian territorial airspace and to land and refuel at suitable airfields when engaged in search and rescue activities", a statement released on Tuesday afternoon said.

Australian Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the new measures would enhance the capacity of Indonesian authorities to respond to incidents involving safety of lives at sea.

"This is a comprehensive package that we've come up with here today and it's a result and indeed I think a real example of the co-operation that's there between Indonesia and Australia," Mr Albanese told reporters.

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