Whites pass for black to gain empathy, experts say in wake of Dolezal case

But not as much has been written about the white people who pass for black or adopt black culture — from celebrities who adopt traditionally black hairstyles and vernacular, or, as social media has been abuzz with since Thursday, Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP Spokane, Wash.

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, branch president whose parents say she is white.

English professor Alisha Gaines, who is publishing a book about white people who pass for black, says the phenomenon is rooted in a need to identify and empathize with black culture. Some people throughouthistory have passed for black as a way to immerse themselves in the experience, says Gaines, who teaches at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

One of the people referenced in her book, Black for a Day: Fantasies of Race and Empathy, is Grace Halsell, a late journalist who posed as a black woman for a few weeks in the deep South and wrote about her experiences in a book titled Soul Sister.

Some hailed Halsell as courageous. Others scoffed, saying one could not appreciate the full black experience in such a short time and in such a simplistic manner.

There have been others through history, too, such as late journalist John Howard Griffin, who darkened his skin and traveled through the segregated South, as chronicled in his 1961 book, Black Like Me, or late R&B musician Johnny Otis, who presented himself as black, says Gaines.

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“The people that I’m studying are coming from a perverted place of empathy,” Gaines says. “The problem is even though they darken their skin — Grace Halsell, she still has the privilege of taking it off, and therein lies the problem,” Gaines says. “Rachel is considered an activist. At the same time, she can take that curly wig off, which is kind of the issue I see here.”

The main reason people choose to pass for black is they have a need or desire to promote civil rights and racial justice, says Marcia Dawkins, author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity.

“We have a lot of stories during segregation of people choosing to pass or identify as black in order to promote civil rights and just to help bring attention and awareness in numbers,” says Dawkins, clinical assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.

Dawkins speculates that Dolezal wanted to fight for racial justice and may have felt that altering her identity was the best way to be taken seriously in this.

“I think in 21st century America where the demographics are changing, particularly in some parts of the country that are resistant, like a New York or a Los Angeles, it can be hard to be an ally,” Dawkins says. “There might not be an easy way to do that and be taken seriously.”

Author and educator Nikki Khanna believes it also can be about being accepted.

“Maybe for this particular woman — it seems as if she cares about African-American issues, she heads the chapter of the NAACP in Spokane, I don’t know if she felt that was her way of fitting in,” says Khanna, who has studied how biracial Americans identify in terms of race.

“You don’t have to be black to lead a chapter of the NAACP and you don’t have to be black to fight for those issues,” adds Khanna, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Vermont. “She could have just been herself.”

Added to the pot is debate that has come from what some call appropriation of black culture, such as when a blog recently credited designer Marc Jacobs with inventing the Bantu knot, a style that originated in Africa more than 1,000 years ago, or Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, who critics say has heavily borrowed from the style and dress of black rappers.

These instances are examples of white people adopting black culture because of its “cool factor,” Gaines says.

It can be a money maker, too, especially when it comes to adopting hair and clothing styles and music, Dawkins says.

“Blackness seems to pay — except if you’re black,” Dawkins says. “It’s a lucrative identity to be part of unless it’s issues of police brutality.”

The academics speculate that Dolezal’s actions, if accurately portrayed by her parents, may have something to do with tensions with relatives.

“It sounds like something with her family,” Gaines says. “There’s something there.”

World News Update: What you need to know

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says he believes people smugglers are despicable, but won’t condemn paying them.

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ELSEWHERE:

DANNEMORA, New York – Two convicted murderers who used power tools to cut their way out of a prison near the Canadian border could be nearby or “in Mexico by now,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says.

WASHINGTON – The campaign logo is ready, so is the big speech, and his message is taking shape: Jeb Bush is about to join the crowded Republican field running for president in 2016.

TORONTO – A Canadian freelance journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia with an Australian photojournalist has spoken for the first time since her alleged kidnapper’s arrest.

BRUSSELS – Last-ditch talks between Greece and its EU-IMF creditors have ended with no deal, setting the countdown towards a disastrous default by Athens with the threat of a Greek exit from the euro closer than ever.

VIENNA – An Austrian brothel is offering a summer special that competitors will find hard to match – free sex. Its owner says it’s his way of protesting a tax squeeze.

ROME – Italy says it will ask the EU to set up refugee processing camps in Libya, and has threatened to ‘hurt’ Europe if it turns a deaf ear to the crisis on its shores.

SANAA – A delegation of Yemeni rebels have headed for UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva, as their forces gain ground near the border with Saudi Arabia.

AKAKALE, Turkey – Thousands of Syrian refugees have poured into Turkey to escape a battle between Kurds and Islamic State (IS) jihadists for the Syrian town of Tal Abyad.

Blame sugar? We’ve been doing that for over 100 years

Alan Levinovitz, James Madison University

After a successful soda tax was passed last year in Berkeley, California, copycat laws are being proposed across the US, often with the support of nutritionists, medical professionals and a majority of the voting public.

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On May 28, the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed an act that would use a tax on sugary drinks.

Research has implicated sugar (meaning both table sugar and high fructose corn syrup) in the rising obesity rate and in health conditions like Type 2 Diabetes. Some researchers, including Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist from the University of California San Francisco, have described sugar as toxic. While we know that Americans are consuming a lot more sugar now than they have in the past, we don’t know at what amount it goes from being a sweet treat to something dangerous. Nor do we know how much of that danger is due to sugar’s unique effects, as opposed to its being a contributor to excessive caloric intake.

Lustig’s criticisms, detailed in his bestseller Fat Chance and the documentary Fed Up, can verge on apocalyptic. Sugar is “evil,” “toxic” and “poisonous.” His preferred analogies are tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, heroin and morphine. Soda is “a fructose delivery vehicle, similar to cigarettes.” Journalists, policymakers and food activists have become devoted followers, and they support his call to regulate sugar “like alcohol and tobacco.”

But this furor over sugar isn’t anything new. Crusaders have been warning about the evil effects of sugar for hundreds of years, with no positive effect on our health. And isn’t that the goal of this kind of rhetoric? Without attending to this history of bias and failed rhetoric, we may be doomed to continue repeating it.

 

Toxic? Sugar and spoon via 杭州桑拿,shutterstock杭州桑拿会所,.

 

Casting a dietary villain – sugar takes center stage

Social history – too often ignored by science – reveals a consistent pattern of irrational beliefs about sugar. In 1974, pediatrician William Crook wrote a letter to a medical journal in which he named cane sugar “a leading cause of hyperactivity” (what we now call ADHD). This truism has been so persistent that it was immortalized on an Old Navy “Let’s Blame the Sugar” T-shirt for babies. Researchers debated Crook’s claim for decades. The scientific consensus now? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “more research discounts this idea than supports it.” They cite one study as a possible explanation for the myth’s persistence, in which “mothers who thought their children had gotten sugar rated them as more hyperactive […] compared to mothers who thought their children received aspartame.” It was belief about sugar’s ill effects that biased the mothers’ perception.

Going back further in time, the demonization of sugar gets increasingly absurd. In 1968, holistic lifestyle crusader Jerome Irving Rodale – founder of health and wellness behemoth Rodale Inc – wrote Natural Health, Sugar, and the Criminal Mind, the thesis of which is evident from the title. Murder; domestic violence; the rise of Nazi Germany: blame sugar!

 

Death serves soda. Wendy Woloson via Library of Congress

 

The scapegoating of sugar dates to at least to the 18th century, when people lived in mortal fear of sexuality. British author Jonas Hanway blamed sugar for creating “fantastic desires and bad habits in which nature has no part” – and it’s not hard to guess what he meant. Children, he warned, were particularly susceptible to sugar’s detrimental effects, which also included “scurvy [and] weak nerves.”

Romanticizing “unprocessed” sweeteners also has historical antecedents. In 1852, physician James Redfield claimed that each stage of sugar processing was a “stage in the down-hill course of deception and mockery, of cowardice, cruelty, and degradation.” Animals that lived on honey were courageous and careful, “as, for example, the bee, the humming-bird, and the bear,” while those that preferred sugar were deficient in virtue, “as, for example, the housefly [and] the ant that lives in the sugar-bowl.”

Nor is it new to demonize sugar by associating it with drugs and alcohol. In the 19th century, temperance advocates spoke of sugar as a gateway drug, and a taste for sweets was thought to foreshadow deadlier habits. That’s what happened to Henry Haycroft, the fictional protagonist of an 1843 temperance tale, who eats “the sugar out of the bottom of his father’s toddy-glass,” before graduating to real drinks of sweet peppermint cordial. Redfield himself warned that “the use of sugar is the stepping-stone to intemperance.”

It’s hard not to be a little skeptical when you know your history. I’ve had a number of people ask me about a recent article called “Three Ways Sugar Kills Your Libido.” In response, I point them to nutritionist John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg), who in 1881 argued that “candie … excite the genital organs.” Sugar stimulated animal appetites, went the scientific logic of the day, so it led to hypersexuality. It seems we’ve come full circle when it comes to sugar and libido.

 

Demonizing sugar may not help people eat better. Sugar cubes via 杭州桑拿,shutterstock杭州桑拿会所,.

 

We need to talk about sugar, but not like this

Anti-sugar advocates like Lustig have adopted a fire-and-brimstone approach: Demonize a macronutrient. Tell people they should consider removing sugar and sugary foods from their pantries, that it is toxic, that we need to regulate it like cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs of abuse. Remember his analogies to cocaine and heroin.

But before we ransack our kitchens to rid them of ketchup and jam, it’s worth pausing to heed a warning from Stanford epidemiologist John PA Ioannidis. In his seminal 2007 article, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, Ioannidis helps explain the endless flipflopping on nutritional guidelines. “For many current scientific fields,” he writes, “claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”

Real science, as Ioannidis reminds us, is slow and humble. Only time will tell if the current level of sugar alarmism is warranted, or if many years from now the comparison of sugar to cocaine will look a bit ridiculous. Should that be the case, governments and policymakers will be in the unenviable position of backtracking on yet another dietary guideline, further undermining the public’s trust in science as an enterprise. The research on sugar might be right – but our history of bias shows that we have a tendency to jump the gun on sugar due to moral furor.

That doesn’t mean that excessive sugar consumption is safe, nor that we should accept sugar’s role in our national diet. Caloric excess is often due to sugary treats, and companies market sugary foods rapaciously to children. So how do we address these problems?

Telling people “don’t eat that” doesn’t seem to have had a huge effect in the past. When Americans were told to fear fat, fat consumption dropped only slightly, while consumption of carbohydrates increased. Between 1971 and 2000, average daily calories from fat decreased by a mere 46 calories, while carbohydrate consumption increased by 240 calories. At the other extreme, some took the recommendation to limit fat and turned it into a prohibition, just as paranoia about fructose is now fueling a taboo on eating fruit.

Perhaps extremism, not sugar, is the real enemy. If that’s the case, the best approach to fixing our culinary culture doesn’t involve demonization or government regulation, strategies that promote dichotomous thinking – clean or unclean, toxic or safe – which experts warn may contribute to eating disorders like binge-eating and orthorexia, while having marginal positive effects on overall public health.

There are other strategies available. We could recognize that a healthy attitude toward food needn’t involve worrying about which foods are healthy. We could focus on making convenience food fresher, more diverse, and more affordable, because not everyone has a local farmers’ market, or money to shop there, or time to cook, or a backyard garden in which to grow heirloom vegetables.

We could also strive to make home cooking more feasible by funding community cooking classes and reintroducing home economics. Culinary students – children and adults alike – could learn to prepare and appreciate delicious meals without feeling coerced, guilty or frightened. And they would do so in kitchens equipped, as all good kitchens are, with sugar.

Alan Levinovitz does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Snowden leak sees UK withdraw spies: report

According to The Sunday Times, security service MI6, which operates overseas and is tasked with defending British interests, has removed agents from certain countries.

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The newspaper cited unnamed officials at the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain’s interior ministry and security services. Snowden downloaded more than 1.7 million secret files from security agencies in the United States and Britain in 2013, and leaked details about mass surveillance of phone and internet communications. The United States wants Snowden to stand trial after he leaked classified documents, fled the country and was eventually granted asylum in Moscow in 2013. Although he claimed in 2013 that the encrypted files remained secure, Britain believed both Russia and China had cracked documents which contain details that could allow British and American spies to be identified. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Snowden had done a huge amount of damage to the West’s ability to protect its citizens. “As to the specific allegations this morning, we never comment on operational intelligence matters so I’m not going to talk about what we have or haven’t done in order to mitigate the effect of the Snowden revelations, but nobody should be in any doubt that Edward Snowden has caused immense damage,” he told Sky News. An official at Cameron’s office was quoted, however, as saying that there was “no evidence of anyone being harmed.” A spokeswoman at Cameron’s office has since declined to comment. A Home Office source told the newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not grant Snowden asylum for nothing. “His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted,” the source said. A British intelligence source said Snowden had done “incalculable damage”. “In some cases the agencies have been forced to intervene and lift their agents from operations to stop them being identified and killed,” the source was quoted as saying. British security agencies have also declined to comment, while the Russian and Chinese governments were not immediately available. The revelations come days after Britain’s terrorism law watchdog said the rules governing the security services’ abilities to spy on the public needed to be overhauled. Conservative lawmaker and former minister Andrew Mitchell said the timing of the report was “no accident”. “There is a big debate going on,” he told BBC radio. “We are going to have legislation bought back to parliament (…) about the way in which individual liberty and privacy is invaded in the interest of collective national security. “That’s a debate we certainly need to have.” Cameron has promised a swathe of new security measures, including more powers to monitor Briton’s communications and online activity in what critics have dubbed a “snoopers’ charter”. Britain’s terrorism laws reviewer David Anderson said on Thursday the current system was “undemocratic, unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable”. He called for new safeguards, including judges not ministers approving warrants for intrusive surveillance, and said there needed to be a compelling case for any extensions of powers.

British ‘jihadist teen killed in Iraq’

The family of a teenager believed to be Britain’s youngest suicide bomber say they have been left “utterly devastated and heartbroken” by his death.

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Talha Asmal, who reportedly detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives while fighting for Islamic State in Iraq, has been described as “a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager” who never harboured any ill will against anybody.

But in a statement released on Sunday, his family said those who sent the 17-year-old to his death had preyed on his “innocence and vulnerability”.

His death has not yet been officially confirmed, but they said photographs showing a youth purportedly named Abu Yusuf Al Britany appear to depict their son.

The teenager fled his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in March to allegedly join ISIS along with his 17-year-old friend Hassan Munshi.

The family said despite him never exhibiting any extreme or radical views, Talha had been exploited by extremists on the internet “in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him”.

Describing themselves as “a close-knit, hard-working, peace-loving and law-abiding British Muslim family”, they said they unreservedly condemned and abhor all acts of violence.

“We are all naturally utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy that now appears to have befallen us,” they said.

“As a family we would like to take this opportunity to unequivocally state that ‘ISIS’ are not Islam.

“They do not represent in any way, shape or form Islam and Muslims.”

West Yorkshire Police say they are unable to confirm the identity of the person who died in Iraq.

The family have urged others with concerns about family members being exploited by ISIS to contact the police.

Police hunt escaped zoo animals after floods in Georgia

Residents were advised to stay indoors until the animals could be captured.

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Reuters photographs showed a marksman shooting tranquillizer darts at a hippopotamus walking past shops on a mud-soaked street.

Local news agencies later reported more than half the animals had been returned to the zoo. Some were killed by police, including a rare breed of white lion cub and six wolves roaming the grounds of a nearby children’s hospital.

Three zoo workers died, including a woman who was trying to save lions and tigers. Several weeks ago she had lost her arm when a tiger attacked her, according to the reports.

Heavy rains turned the Vere river that flows through Tbilisi into a torrent that washed away buildings, roads and cars.

“Dozens of families remain homeless as their houses were destroyed or damaged in the capital,” deputy mayor Irakly Lekvinadze told reporters.

At least 24 people were still missing and 37 were taken to hospital with injuries, Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri told an emergency government meeting. Monday was declared a day of national mourning.

The estimated damage was up to 40 million lari (18 million), according to the Finance Ministry, and government officials were in touch with international donors to discuss aid.

Deadly floods in #Georgia – zoo animals escape and 8 people die 杭州桑拿网,杭州夜生活,/YkUnLfeX42 pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/MDcqh3CyMO

— Barra Best (@barrabest) June 14, 2015

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‘Rebels seize Yemen city’ before talks

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have seized the city of al-Hazm near the Saudi border from local rival fighters, a day before UN-brokered peace talks.

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The Houthis and allied military units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday took control of al-Hazm, the capital city of the north-eastern province of al-Jauf, a tribal leader told DPA.

The mostly Shi’ite rebels took over governmental buildings and the local headquarters of the rival Sunni al-Islah Party in the city without resistance, the tribal leader added on condition of anonymity.

Following the takeover, warplanes of a Saudi-led coalition carried out a series of airstrikes against the rebels’ outposts in the city, local residents said.

The Houthis, who hail from Yemen’s far north, captured the capital Sanaa in September. They have since swept across the country.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Sunni partners started an air campaign in Yemen after the rebels advanced on Yemen’s second city of Aden, forcing internationally recognised President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, who is a Sunni, to flee the country.

The rebels have since mounted cross-border attacks in Saudi border areas.

Yemen’s warring factions are due to start UN-sponsored talks in Geneva on Monday.

Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya quoted a UN spokesman as saying that the talks would begin as scheduled, with the participation of all parties.

Representatives from countries in the Gulf, the UN veto powers and the European Union, as well as from Egypt, Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan are also taking part.

Iran will not be part of the process.

IS militants claim teenager becomes ‘UK’s youngest suicide bomber’

British media have cited pictures posted online by the militants, which say Abu Yusuf al-Britani took part in a suicide attack in Iraq’s Salahuddin province.

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He is believed to be Talha Asmal, a teenager who left West Yorkshire in March, and was thought to have joined Islamic State, according to a statement from his family.

“Although the information within these reports has not been confirmed and the relevant UK authorities are working hard to verify the facts, we can confirm that the photographs shown of a youth purportedly named Abu Yusuf al-Britani appears to show our 17-year-old son Talha,” the family of Talha Asmal said in a statement issued by West Yorkshire police on Sunday.

“We are all naturally utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy that now appears to have befallen us.”

Security services have estimated that at least 600 Britons have gone to Syria or Iraq to join militant groups, including the man known as “Jihadi John” who has appeared in several Islamic State beheading videos.

Hundreds of other Europeans have also joined the fight.

The family said Asmal came from a close knit, hardworking, peace loving and law abiding British Muslim family, and the entire family unreservedly condemned and abhorred all acts of violence wherever they were perpetrated.

West Yorkshire police said they were aware of the reports, but were unable to comment further as the person’s identity had not been confirmed.

According to media reports, Islamic State said ‘al-Britani’ was one of four suicide bombers – with the others said to be a German, a Kuwaiti and a Palestinian – who took part in the attack.

Islamic State controls swathes of territory in eastern Syria and northern Iraq where it has declared an Islamic caliphate.

Park In-bee registers Women’s PGA triple treat

Park was impeccable in claiming her sixth major, running a bogey-free streak to a remarkable 56 holes as she finished at a tournament record-matching 19 under par with a 273 total to beat fellow South Korean Kim Sei-young, who shot 71 for 278.

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It was a triple treat for Park, who won the event for the third year in a row, reclaimed the world number one ranking and avenged a sudden-death defeat to Kim in April’s Lotte Championship in Hawaii, as she claimed the $525,000 (£337,422) prize.

“It feels amazing to win three times in a row,” Park said after matching the feat previously achieved by Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam. “I feel extremely honoured, and I can’t believe that I just did it.

“This is really a great accomplishment in my career. Obviously there’s a lot more things to do from now on but this is definitely one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve ever had.”

The 26-year-old Park, winner of five of the last 12 women’s majors played since 2013, began the day with a two-shot lead over Kim, an LPGA Tour rookie who has won twice this season.

Large galleries followed the Korean duel through the hills of the Westchester layout to watch a to-and-fro tussle in which Park built a four-shot lead by the fourth hole that shrank to one after Kim ran off four birdies in a row from the fifth.

But as she had done on Saturday with a four-putt bogey at the last hole, Kim imploded by taking four putts at the par-five ninth for a double bogey that dropped her four back as Park birdied.

The ultra-steady Park was never again threatened.

“In-bee was very (solid) today, and I tried to find the chance to get close to her, but I didn’t have my A Game to get there today,” said Kim, who chipped in to force a playoff with Park in Hawaii two months ago and won it by holing out from 154 yards.

As a consolation, Kim also leapfrogged previous world number one New Zealander Lydia Ko into number two in the rankings.

Lexi Thompson fired a 66 to charge into third at 12-under, one better than Brittany Lincicome (68), winner of the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration.

Morgan Pressel (70) and 17-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson (71) tied for fifth on 282.

(Editing by Andrew Both)

Labor, Greens push for investigation into ‘breathtaking’ people smuggler claims

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has repeatedly refused to deny or confirm the reports despite growing pressure for answers from Indonesia, the United Nations, Labor and the Greens.

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Labor leader Bill Shorten has told Fairfax Media the secrecy over the allegations is breathtaking and he has called on Mr Abbott to tell Australians what happened.

Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles wrote to the Auditor-General on Sunday night requesting an investigation into whether the payments were made.

“If this happened, there are serious questions about the legal basis upon which it has happened,” Mr Marles told ABC radio on Monday.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young will ask the Australian Federal Police to investigate the claims and whether any laws have been broken.

She says Australians have a right to know whether taxpayer funds have been used.

“(Mr Abbott) doesn’t have a mandate to break the law,” Ms Hanson-Young told ABC radio.

“He doesn’t have a mandate to hand out wads of cash on the ocean to people smugglers.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has urged Indonesia to enforce sovereignty over its own borders, after Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi sought an explanation from Australia’s ambassador Paul Grigson over the allegations.

Ms Bishop told The Australian the best way for Indonesia to resolve its concerns about Australia’s operations to stop asylum seeker boats was to “enforce sovereignty over its borders”.

Mr Marles says the claims are affecting Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.

Asked whether he agreed with Ms Bishop that Indonesia needed to get its own house in order, Mr Marles said: “I don’t think now is the time for the Australian government to be walking down that path.”

The Australian Greens on Monday will try to win Senate support for a motion requesting the government table documents detailing any payments to individuals on board asylum seeker boats.

Passengers tell UNHCR the crew received a payment

The United Nations refugee agency says it’s interviewed the 65 passengers from the boat who claim the crew were paid by Australian officials to return to Indonesian waters.

The UNHCR’s James Lynch has told the BBC the passengers were transferred to a customs boat for four days before being put on two boats and sent back to Indonesia.

“The boat that was rescued by the Indonesian navy on 31 May – we have interviewed the 65 passengers and they have said that the crew received a payment,” Mr Lynch said.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi sought an explanation from Australia’s ambassador Paul Grigson on Saturday over the allegations.

Mr Abbott has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny the allegations, or whether the government would investigate them.

“The only question that matters is, is this government prepared to do what’s necessary to keep the boats stopped?” he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

“The answer is yes.”

He said it was important for Indonesia to know the government was “absolutely resolute” in its determination not to allow the people smuggling trade to resume.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton refused to comment on the allegations on Sunday after denying them earlier in the week.

“From day one we have not commented on operations,” he said, following the line taken by Mr Abbott and several other senior ministers on Operation Sovereign Borders.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Australians deserved an answer following Mr Dutton’s backflip.

“It is now time for Mr Abbott to make it clear … has Australian taxpayer money been paid by the Abbott government to criminal people smugglers or not?” he told reporters in Canberra.

Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the claims were affecting Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.

If the claims were true, Mr Dutton would have a “serious problem”.

“If he has denied this up front and it turns out to be true, Peter Dutton is seriously injured,” Mr Marles told ABC TV.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the proposition that Mr Abbott’s refusal to deny the allegations translated into payments having been made was “just wrong”.

Former Howard government treasurer Peter Costello said it was appropriate that the government neither confirm or deny the reports.

“There’s a lot of stuff that happens in the security area which a government neither confirms nor denies – that doesn’t mean it happens,” Mr Costello told Network Ten’s Bolt Report.

“You don’t want the smugglers to know what you’re doing.”

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said any government payments to people smugglers would effectively put Australia in the people smuggling business.