Remember the widespread condemnation last month when it was revealed four male Royal Navy sailors allegedly organised a s-x contest to sleep with as many female crewmates possible?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was ‘troubled’. Deputy PM Julia Gillard quite rightly said she wanted the matter to be fully investigated so women would not be dissuaded from a naval career. The four implicated were immediately sent home.

Sailors, clearly, were not to be treated as s-xual objects. Except, it seems, when male sailors can be officially pimped out to promote Myer’s latest summer swimwear range.

Myer are great at getting free advertising. They were at it again at the weekend, arranging for Jennifer Hawkins to strut her stuff Cher style onboard the HMAS Darwin wearing a bikini.

Jen posed with “the hottest 200 blokes on board” chosen — double standards be damned — by the 40 women on board. Welcome to the new nautical equality. As The Daily Tele reported:

Women may still be working their way up the ranks of the Australian Defence Force but the Royal Australian Navy knew the 40 women on board HMAS Darwin were the perfect choice for a secret mission this week.

The assignment for the women was to form a committee to recruit the hottest 200 blokes on board to appear in a fashion shoot for Myer girl Jennifer Hawkins’ Cosi bikini line.

“We asked the women who would be the most attractive men to stand next to the most beautiful woman in Australia,” navy events and marketing manager Lieutenant Commander Jillian Brownlie said.

The usual media suspects — including Sky News, Channel Nine, the Herald Sun, Adelaide Advertiser and Courier Mail — were happy to publicise these latest manoeuvres and help Myer’s bikini sales.

Commercial broadcasters and newspapers have a keen interest in keeping such big spending advertisers sweet, after all. But what’s the Royal Australian Navy’s excuse?

Well, spending taxpayers’ money to advertise swimwear for Myer is justified in the name of recruitment, according to Navy events and marketing manager Lieutenant Commander Jillian Brownlie. Lt Commander Brownlie advised the Daily Telegraph that it’s a “secret weapon” in Defence Force recruitment.

It’s not the first time the Navy has suggested babes in bikinis may boost recruitment.

In January, Australian Naval Commander Tom Phillips told lads’ magazine RALPH in an interview that “female sailors wearing bikinis might help boost recruitment”, much to the consternation of the same media outlets who delighted in breathlessly reporting Jen’s bikini clad escapades on the HMAS Darwin at the weekend.

Crikey went to Lt Commander Brownlie to ask whether the weekend’s fashion shoot selection process contravened the Navy’s strict “equity and diversity” policy that demands workplaces be free of denigrating and harassing behaviour but she was unavailable for comment before deadline.