“The Australian Crisis” is the final result of an attempt on my part, early in 1907, to write a magazine article dealing with the dangers to which the neighbourhood of overcrowded Asia exposes the thinly populated Commonwealth of Australia. At that time, my thoughts on the subject resembled those of the Australian multitude: they were disconnected, and more in the shape of a vague fear than defined clearly. However, when I began to work out my problem, I soon recognized that it was too vast for intelligible compression within the limits of an ordinary magazine contribution. I was quite convinced of this when the central idea of the book occurred to me — the possibility of a coloured invasion of Australian territory, organized on such lines that the Australians would be unable to persuade the heart of the Empire that there was any invasion.
This central idea may be termed my only presupposition, for which reason I have been at pains to treat it from every point of view. Granted its feasibility, the whole narrative of Parts I and III follows as a matter of cold, logical necessity. True, the details might vary, but the drift of events would be inevitable in the direction indicated. Part II is an interlude, which has grown out of my deep conviction that Australia would somehow strike a direct blow against the invading enemy. It investigates also the possibility of success attendant upon such an attempt.
There have been a good many abstract warnings of late on the subject dealt with by me. Unfortunately the Australians, who have the reputation of being a rather imaginative people, seem to have no imagination at all where the future safety of the nation is concerned. The past warnings have been ridiculed as being unwarrantably pessimistic. One more bald statement would probably share the same fate. Apparently the Commonwealth can be roused to a sense of its danger only by patient investigation of its real position in the world and of the possibilities arising thence. That has been my purpose.
My book deals exclusively with realities. For this reason it is written in the form of a retrospection from the year 1922 upon events supposed to have happened less than ten years earlier, viz., in 1912. The nearness of the latter date has been decided on deliberately. A deferment of action to a later time would have made unavoidable the introduction of a fantastical element. Nobody can guess what the conditions may be even a decade hence. My purpose did not require the invention of unheard-of war engines or radical changes on the map of the world. On the contrary, the introduction of new factors, of things that do not yet exist, would only confuse the issue. But every thinking man can foresee the probable political developments of the next few years. I show what is possible under the known circumstances of the hour almost, to-day or to-morrow. And I think if that has no power to compel the citizens of the Commonwealth to seriously consider their position, no dreadful visions of a distant future will.
C. H. Kirmess
* This forecast romance is something more than a novel: it is a work. So as to secure quicker publication by giving larger instalments, it has been decided not to illustrate “The Australian Crisis.”
C.H. Kirmess. The Australian Crisis, George Robertson & Company, Melbourne, 1909