2012 Australian Accounting Hall of Fame

Russel Mathews
Edward Nixon
Murray Wells

Three eminent accountants were honoured in 2012 with membership of the Australian Accounting Hall of Fame: the late Sir Edwin Nixon from Melbourne, the late Emeritus Professor Russell Mathews of the ACT and Emeritus Professor Murray Wells from Sydney. Each was elected to membership of the Hall of Fame on the strength of their contributions to the development of accounting over a long period stretching from the early 1900s to the present day. In granting membership the Hall of Fame recognises the contribution made to accounting practice, scholarship and education.

Edwin Nixon was honoured as an accounting pioneer whose eponymous practice started in 1912 eventually became part of the modern-day Ernst & Young. During this time Nixon also managed to devote time to academic life both as a member of the teaching staff in the University of Melbourne and as a prolific author. His work on business ethics was directed particularly to the accounting profession. Nixon was called on three occasions to serve on Royal Commissions established by the Federal Government. Perhaps his most important contribution during his long working life occurred during the war years of 1939-1945 when he was appointed initially to chair the Accountancy Advisory Panel in the Department of Supply and Development and later as Director of Finance in the Ministry of Munitions under the Director-General Essington Lewis. His primary focus in both roles was the fair costing of munitions for the war effort. His achievements were duly rewarded with the CMG and later elevation to Knight Bachelor.

By contrast, Russell Matthews was the quintessential accounting academic and public intellectual who held chairs in accounting in the University of Adelaide and the ANU. His pioneering research covered diverse areas such as inflation accounting, accounting education, fiscal federalism, taxation theory and policy, and public expenditure theory and policy. For the Federal Government he chaired first the Inquiry into Inflation and Taxation which resulted in the introduction of the Trading Stock Valuation Adjustment which operated during 1976–79, and, in the later 1980s, an inquiry into accounting in higher education which provided a blueprint for government. The significance of his scholarship was recognised when he was elected to membership of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and with the award of a CBE and an AO.

Murray Wells spent his academic career almost entirely within the University of Sydney, included stints as head of the accounting discipline, director of the Graduate School of Business and long-time editor of the prestigious scholarly journal Abacus. His scholarship influenced the paradigm shift that changed substantially the way accountants deal with overhead costs by suggesting they are arbitrary rather than fact. Wells was one of the first to draw on history and the experience of engineers to direct attention to ‘activities’ as the basis for cost attribution. As such he is one of the unheralded fathers of Activity-Based Costing. His important Board appointments have included Telstra Corporation, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, and the Seven Network.

Nixon inductee group photo

L-R: Stewart Leech, Rupert Myer AM, Ted Nixon, Geoff Burrows
Ted Nixon accepting the award on behalf of his late grandfather Sir Edwin Nixon

Commemorative booklet (PDF 2.9MB)

Photo Album (PDF 223KB)

Rupert Myer Address (PDF 62KB)