Australian military probes Ku Klux Klan stunt on black recruits
Australia's military chief said an investigation was under way after a leading newspaper published a photo showing black recruits hounded in a Ku Klux Klan-style stunt.
Prime Minister John Howard condemned the incident as "clearly in very bad taste."
Sydney's popular Daily Telegraph showed Aboriginal and other black recruits sitting cross-legged in front of colleagues wearing Klan-style white hoods in a mock school photograph.
"This is a silly, silly thing that's been done," he told Channel Nine television, saying he understood it was the idea of junior officers commanding the group.
"An investigation, which is underway to check the further claims of some of the aggrieved people, will determine that. But it was investigated when it was first presented in early 2003 and action was taken then."
Cosgrove said the military was the biggest employer of indigenous Australians and took care of them.
Howard, a right winger who has been accused in the past of pandering to racism with a tough stance against illegal immigration, said the Ku Klux Klan was an "abhorrent organisation".
"It's clearly in very bad taste and I condemn it," he told commercial radio. "I mean, I'm fairly broad-minded and reasonable about pranks and so forth in the military or indeed anywhere else.
"But anything that touches upon somebody's race and particularly involving such an abhorrent organisation as the Ku Klux Klan is not a joke."
The newspaper said the photograph was taken in September 2000 at the Lavarack barracks in Townsville in Queensland state, weeks before the soldiers were sent on assignment to East Timor.
Some of those involved were considering legal action, it said.
In another alleged racist incident, the newspaper said, one black solider had life-saving armour taken out of his flak jacket by colleagues while on patrol in the half-island nation.
It is the latest in a string of allegations of racism within Australia's military.