The Australian military was embroiled in another sex scandal yesterday, with 17 personnel including officers under investigation after "explicit and repugnant" e-mails and images demeaning female personnel were uncovered.
Army chief Lieutenant General David Morrison said he was appalled at the revelations, which follow a government report last year detailing more than 1,000 claims of sexual or other abuse in the forces since the 1950s.
That report was sparked by the so-called Skype scandal in 2011, when footage of a young male recruit having sex with a female classmate was streamed online to cadets in another room without her knowledge.
"I'd say it's worse than the Skype matter," Morrison said. "I view the allegations that are being made in the gravest light."
He said they involve the alleged production and distribution of "highly inappropriate" material across both defence computer systems and the internet since 2010. Illicit drug use may also be involved.
Three people had been suspended so far and may face police charges, he said. Another five could be suspended and nine more were under investigation.
A further 90 Australian Defence Force personnel are implicated in the e-mail chain, Morrison added.
The highest-ranking officer was a lieutenant colonel, with the remainder either majors, captains, warrant officers, sergeants or corporals.
Morrison declined to go into details of exactly what the material contained, but the army chief said "the matters both textural and imagery are demeaning, explicit and profane".
He said he had spoken to some of the women involved and apologised.
In the wake of the Skype scandal, the Australian government made a parliamentary apology to victims of abuse in the military, and set up a compensation fund after hundreds of claims of rape and sexual assault.