Opposition leader Bill Shorten says the defence force has been caught up in a political mess over asylum seekers.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the government shouldn’t embroil Australian servicemen and women in the asylum-seeker debate.

His comments come after the Abbott government dismissed reports that Australian navy personnel fired shots into the air to scare off an asylum seeker boat.

An Indonesian local police commissioner from southern Java, who did not want to be named, told Fairfax Media that villagers plucked a number of asylum seekers from the water on January 8 after their boat was turned back by Australian authorities.

After interviewing those on the boat, he claimed the navy had “shot into the air just to scare them”.

But Immigration Minister Scott Morrison in a statement: “No shots have been fired at any time by any persons involved in Operation Sovereign Borders since the operation commenced.”

Mr Shorten said the government should provide more information about what’s going on.

“Because there’s this culture of secrecy, I don’t want to see Australian servicemen and women pull up as the meat in an Abbott-Morrison secrecy sandwich,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

“We’ve got all this confusion and have the defence forces caught up in it.”

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also called on the government to provide more detail about the operation.

“If (Mr Morrison) wants us to believe his denial, it’s time for him to come clean and release the details of the incident,” she told reporters in Adelaide.