Allan Barton AM


Allan Douglas Barton completed a double first class honours degree in economics and accounting at the University of Melbourne. A scholarship enabled him to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge where he formulated his view of accounting as an economic measuring system that influenced his academic writing throughout his long career. At the same time he acquired a bias towards Keynesian thought regarding the nature and roles of government. Returning to Australia he held senior academic and administrative positions at the University of Adelaide, Macquarie University and the Australian National University. During the 1970s Allan contributed extensively to the ¿erce debate regarding current cost accounting and the impacts of inflation on business operations. His article titled Expectations and Achievements in Income Theory, published in The Accounting Review in 1974 was subsequently reprinted and included as compulsory reading in many accounting theory programs at that time. Allan Barton is also well remembered for his landmark textbook The Anatomy of Accounting, published in 1975, which represented a major departure from the traditional approach to teaching accounting as rule-based bookkeeping. As a member of the Australian Accounting Research Foundation Research Committee and principal contractor, Allan Barton played a key role in the development of the Conceptual Framework for financial reporting, an item still on the agenda of the world's standard setting bodies. Allan Barton's academic output was prolific and maintained throughout a challenging and diverse career. His influence on the thinking of successive generations of public administrators, policymakers, academics and accountants, while less directly visible, has been equally substantial. Allan Barton excelled in his contribution to accounting education in Australia. He helped to build the foundations of the discipline in Australia and internationally. He has contributed as a true scholar to the practice of accounting and financial management, particularly in the public sector, and has influenced the lives of thousands of students in accounting. Service to the profession did not escape his attention. Allan held high office in both CPA Australia and the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ).  Due recognition came Allan Barton's way as a consequence of the commitments made over such a long period of time. He was awarded Life Membership as a Fellow of CPA Australia and Life Membership of AFAANZ. On his retirement from the Australian National University Allan Barton was given the title of Emeritus Professor. He was also appointed an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney. His scholarly contribution over a very long period was also recognised with his election as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 2007.  For significant service to accounting and economics Allan Barton was made, posthumously, a Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division in February 2012.

The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame honours Allan Douglas Barton as an educator, administrator, author and scholar of the highest order.



Allan Barton matriculated into the University of Melbourne from Melbourne High School. He was the first student to complete a Bachelor of Commerce with double First Class Honours majoring in accounting and economics. He tutored in both discipline areas. A scholarship enabled him to study a PhD in Economics at the University of Cambridge where he acquired his views of accounting as an economic measuring system together with a bias towards Keynesian thinking on the nature and role of government. Not surprisingly he was not enamoured with the Chicago School's free-market traditions. Allan Barton graduated PhD from Cambridge in 1959.

Following completion of doctoral studies Allan returned to Australia to an appointment at the University of Adelaide as a lecturer in economics.  During this time he developed much of his thinking about how accounting fitted within the economic theory of business. His major focus was on how economic theory could provide the basis for the development of accounting theory on the measurement of financial performance and position of the firm, and also for decision making about business operations. From 1962 to 1966 he was Head of the Master of Business Management Program responsible for development of one of the first MBA programs in Australia. Allan was eventually promoted to reader in 1966.

In 1967 Allan Barton was appointed the Foundation Chair in the Accounting and Business Studies disciplines at the nascent Macquarie University contributing enormously to what is now a hugely successful program. While at Macquarie University Allan Barton oversaw the start of a new department within a new university and continued teaching microeconomics courses along with new accounting courses.

During the 1970's Allan contributed extensively to the debate regarding current cost accounting and the impacts of inflation on business operations. His article on Expectations and Achievements in Income Theory was published in The Accounting Review in 1974, and was subsequently reprinted in course readings and included as compulsory reading in many accounting theory courses at that time.

Allan is the author of several widely known textbooks. His acclaimed The Anatomy of Accounting (University of Queensland Press, 1975, 1977 - 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990) covered introductory financial and management accounting with a careful analysis of accounting for inflation and changes in costs.  This text, which was widely used in Australian and overseas universities, was a cornerstone to learning as it represented a major departure from the traditional approach to teaching accounting as rule-based bookkeeping. Incorporating a new approach to understanding transactions as recording dealings between the firm and its resource markets and product markets, the challenge posed by Barton was to then convert the transaction data into useful financial information to meet the needs of management, investors and others. This involved consideration of income, capital maintenance and other concepts and their measurement in periods of changing market prices and general inflation.

In 1975 Allan was appointed as the Head of the Department of Accounting and Public Finance at the Australian National University (ANU). During this period he further developed his insight into accounting in the public sector, an interest that stayed with him throughout his working life including extensive publication on accounting issues involving the public sector financial management and budgetary reforms. At all times Barton insisted good policy should be based on sound theory.

Allan Barton's strong administrative ability was quickly recognised with appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Economics from 1979-1983. During this period he oversaw the growth of business and economic studies. He was a member of the University Council from 1983 to 1986 and subsequently served in numerous roles managing financial policy including Treasurer from 1984 to 1994 and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Finance and Development) from 1992 to 1996. He oversaw the implementation of effective capital, operating and maintenance budgeting procedures setting high expectations for strong cash and accrual accounting reporting. In retirement his astute advice was retained as a member and chairman of the Investment Advisory Committee of the ANU.

What makes Allan Barton's record stand out are his achievements in all aspects of academic life.  As a teacher he proudly and successfully taught generations of accounting students from introductory courses to doctoral students. His textbooks introduced a generation of students to financial and management accounting within a context of rigorous economic thinking.  Allan Barton's academic output was prolific and was maintained throughout a diverse and challenging career and long into his retirement years. As a researcher Allan has contributed over a hundred journal and conference publications from 1955 to 2011. He contributed to a period which helped build the disciplinary foundations of accounting as a discipline, distinct from economics but building from the foundations of economics. As an administrator he held very senior positions within the ANU.

As an individual he has helped build opportunities for students through his work with the Cambridge Australia Trust since its inception in the mid-1980s, scholarship organisations, and with the funding of student prizes for exemplary achievement in accounting.  A proud Cantabrigian, Allan took particular delight in encouraging students to pursue studies at Cambridge.

The impacts of Allan's achievements have been numerous. As one of the very earliest academics to earn a PhD with an interest in accounting his work with other pioneers helped accounting develop as a unique academic discipline within universities in Australia. As a foundation professor at a bush-land campus in Ryde he helped launch Macquarie University and start an accounting program which has grown to be one of the largest in the country. His contribution to the success of business and economics within the ANU is immense.

Allan Baron was possessed of a sharp insight and sometimes frustrating strength of opinion throughout his career. He was a scourge of poor accounting and economic thinking during his professorial tenure of three decades.

Allan Barton's contribution to accounting in Australia has been recognised on several occasions. He was variously:

  • Life Member and Fellow of CPA Australia
  • Life Member and Fellow of the Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand
  • Emeritus Professor - Australian National University
  • Honorary Professor - University of Sydney
  • Elected Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 2007.
  • Posthumous recipient of the ANU Vice-Chancellor's Award for Public Policy and Outreach in 2012
  • Posthumously made a Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division in February 2012