Australian pioneers elected into Australian Accounting Hall of Fame

By Annie Dolan

Over 100 guests from industry, government and academia joined Paul Kofman (Dean, Faculty of Business and Economics), Matt Pinnuck (Head of the Department of Accounting), the Directors of the Centre of Accounting and Industry Partnerships, Brad Potter, Stewart Leech and Kevin Stevenson and Phill Cobbin (Hall of Fame Director), to honour and celebrate the lifetime achievements of three inductees into the Australian Accounting Hall of Fame.The dinner and awards took place at University House on Wednesday 16 March.

Ross L Watts, Michael John Sharpe AO and John Angus Lancaster Gunn (deceased) join a high profile list of accounting practitioners and academics, who have shaped the sector, in the Hall of Fame.

Ross L. Watts, Michael John Sharpe AO and Rev David Palmer who received the award on behalf of his grandfather the late John Gunn CBE.

After returning from the Middle East in 1920 following five years of active service with the 1st AIF, the late John Angus Lancaster Gunn CBE of Sydney immersed himself in a lifelong career in accounting and became one of the pre-eminent practitioners and authorities in the relatively nascent area of taxation. He is best known for the substantive volume Gunn's Commonwealth Income Tax Law and Practice. This monumental work, first published by Butterworth in 1943 eventually ran to seven editions. It was the only comprehensive reference on Australian income tax for many years. John Gunn not only provided extensive advice to clients in his practice as a chartered accountant but was also called upon by Government to give advice on a number of Committees and Boards including the Ferguson Royal Commission on Taxation. John Gunn was probably the major figure in Australian taxation accounting in the three decades before his death in 1962. He served his country in important capacities during wartime and was a substantial contributor to the development of Australia's taxation system, accounting profession, and accounting and taxation literature. John Gunn was an engaging personality that made him an ideal mentor for younger colleagues and a sounding-board for contemporaries.

Michael Sharpe AO was elected to the Australian Accounting Hall of Fame in recognition of a long career in public practice and service as an international accounting standard setter. After graduating with a BEc from the University of Sydney, Michael spent over fifty years with Coopers & Lybrand and PWC holding several international and national executive positions. In a career distinguished by service, Michael’s most noteworthy contribution to the profession was as Chairman of the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) which he led from 1995 to 1997 at a time of irreversible movement towards the harmonisation of financial reporting throughout the world. The fruits of his IASC work are comparable, high quality and transparent accounting standards. As chair Michael was instrumental in the adoption of these standards by over 100 countries, with many other countries progressing towards adoption. This movement has had far-reaching benefits for the global economy. During this period, he also chaired a review of the structure of the IASC to enhance its independence, which led to the formation of the International Accounting Standards Board. Michael served as chair of the NSW Education Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAA) and on the National Examination Committee where he was responsible for overseeing the change in examination format to the Professional Year. In 1982 he was elected President of the ICAA and worked tirelessly to support the professional education of chartered accountants and the accreditation of accounting programmes at universities around Australia.

Ross L Watts, accounting theorist, is the first expatriate inductee into the Australian Accounting Hall of Fame having spent most of his academic life in North America. Ross spent forty years at Rochester becoming Rochester Telephone Corporation Professor of Business Administration in the WilliamE. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Rochester and later William H. Meckling Professor of Business Administration. From 2008 until 2013 he was Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management, and Professor of Accounting in the Sloan School at MIT. The critical importance of Ross’s career is demonstrated by the impact that his work has had on other scholars. Seminal papers at critical moments characterise his research output with close to 32,000 Google Scholar citations to date. Extensive editorial contributions include founding co-editor of the Journal of Accounting& Economics and founding editor of the Accounting Research Network, Division of Social Science Research Network along with a dozen other journals including Contemporary Accounting Research and the Journal of Accounting Research. Ross Watts has either chaired or been a member of the dissertation committees of more than 40 PhD candidates many of whom have made major contributions to accounting research.

Nominations for the 2017 Australian Accounting Hall of Fame awards will be open on 1 May 2016. Find out more about the awards.

The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame dinner and awards are sponsored by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and CPA Australia, whose valued support makes this prestigious event possible.