Prime Minister Scott Morrison has blasted the ABC for editing footage to make it look like dignitaries watched a dance troupe performing at the launch of a naval ship.
The 101 Doll Squadron on Sunday performed at the official commissioning ceremony for the HMAS Supply.
An ABC report showed the dancers twerking and performing other moves, cut with shots of Governor-General David Hurley and some senior Navy officers.
But it later emerged he and the senior officers were not there during the performance.
While Defence raised eyebrows over its choice of performers, the prime minister directed his outrage at the national broadcaster.
“I am disappointed that this event was so misreported. I think that was disrespectful to the performers,” Mr Morrison said.
“To suggest the governor-general or others were in attendance in that way, I think was very dishonest.”
He wouldn’t be drawn on whether the act was an appropriate for an official Navy function because the ABC’s reporting was “false, wrong and misleading”.
“Obviously defence will look at these matters and make whatever changes they wish to in the future – I’ll leave that to them – but it is disappointing that Australians were so misled on that issue,” Mr Morrison said.
Liberal MP and former soldier Philip Thompson previously said the “twerking” in the routine was inappropriate.
“Standards in the ADF, and definitely when commissioning a ship, should be a little bit higher than that,” he told the ABC.
In a statement, 101 Doll Squadron described the way they were filmed as “creepy” and motivated by a need to sexualise women.
“These are the images appearing in the media and the ABC have a lot to answer for in making us feel threatened and exploited,” it said.
The group said the choreographic concept included blessings, ocean waves and geographical location of “where the fresh water meets the sea”.
“It was meant to bring an informal sense of celebration; a gift from one of our community groups to open a modern ship, with a modern dance form,” 101 Doll Squadron said.
“A short piece taken out of context in what was a very long day performed before the official ceremony and before the arrival of dignitaries and not part of it.”
Defence insists the performance happened before the governor-general and top military brass arrived.
It has pledged to continue to work with community groups, while the dance squadron says it has worked with the Navy for years.