Prince Harry is here to review the fleet. Photo: Getty Images
Over the next week the world's most magnificent natural harbour will host more than 55 ships and 8000 sailors as part of the International Fleet Review.
The display of military might and general festivities are part of the celebration of the navy's centenary. While the creation of an Australian navy was an important step towards becoming a modern, independent nation, the focus on Prince Harry serves to remind us that this is still a royal navy and we are yet to fully claim our independence.
Prince Harry will be the centre of attention and will receive the royal salute with our Prime Minister and Governor-General as supporting cast. Harry will also receive an ''off caps'' tribute from our sailors. Perhaps this will provide comfort, having been recently demoted to fourth in line to be king of Australia after the birth of his nephew George. Consider that for a moment. This is how we choose our head of state in a free, democratic nation.
The 2013 fleet review will mirror our 1988 Bicentennial. Although our democratically elected prime minister and several state premiers were present, the highlight of the event was undoubtedly the presence of Harry's parents, Charles and Diana. Much like our first fleet review in 1920, which was inspected by the Prince of Wales, an event that is supposed to celebrate Australian talent, initiative and courage will be dominated by Britain.
This prompts the question, why do we find it so hard to celebrate ourselves as Australians? The Queen opened our Parliament House in 1988, just as her father opened Old Parliament House in Canberra and her grandfather opened our original parliament in Melbourne. At the time, John Howard hailed her as the ''pinnacle of our democracy''.
Surely this is a contradiction in terms. What could be less appropriate for a free and independent democracy than to have a foreign head of state selected on nothing but the privilege of birthright? If we truly believe in democracy and a fair go, if we want to live in a country where any citizen can be head of state (rather than none of them) then we must end our political apathy and demand change.
To mark the Queen's Jubilee, Parkes Place in Canberra was renamed Queen Elizabeth Terrace. Henry Parkes is a giant in Australian history, the father of Federation and one of the chief architects of the modern Australian nation. Why are we so willing to celebrate British royals but so reluctant to celebrate ourselves? Could you imagine trying to rename a street dedicated to Gandhi in India or Washington in the United States?
Australian nationalism has a peculiar identity crisis. For decades to be Australian was to be a small part of the greater British empire. As the empire faded and Britain turned its economic attention to Europe, Australia took only small reluctant steps towards independence. Dropping the word ''British'' from our passports, abandoning God Save the Queen as an anthem, ending appeals to the Privy Council and the passage of the Australia Acts have all been steps towards complete independence.
All that remains is to remove royal privilege from our constitution and to become a republic. This will be the final step in a 200-year evolution from colony to dominion to nation. This will be the final affirmation we are a meritocracy and we judge people not by their class and lineage but by the hearts and their actions.
Future Australians will flip coins and see the faces of Australian men and women who have spent a life in service of Australia. Future Australian children will grow up knowing that with hard work and determination they can rise to the highest place of honour in our constitution. Amid the impressive sights of the fleet review, let's remember that this is a country with many achievements worth celebrating. We have built a democracy that is the envy of the world. While the media spotlight will inevitably be on Prince Harry, let's remember also that monarchy is our past. Equality is our future.
Dr Benjamin T. Jones is the co-editor of Project Republic. He teaches history at the University of Western Sydney.