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Barton, Allan Douglas (1933–2012)

by Kerry Jacobs

Allan Barton, by Bob Cooper, 1987

Allan Barton, by Bob Cooper, 1987

ANU Archives, ANUA 225-60

Emeritus Professor Allan Barton, the scourge of poor accounting and fuzzy economic thinking, passed away on Saturday 9 June 2012 at St Andrews Village in Canberra. Allan Barton was Professor of Accounting at ANU for over 30 years, and taught accounting to nearly three generations of Canberra economics and accounting students. He was a tireless advocate of Keynesian economics and a critic of the Chicago school free-market tradition. His sharpness of insight and strength of opinion remained undiminished, as did his output in academic publications and newspaper releases, challenging any issue Allan regarded as an example of poor thinking.

Allan was born in Melbourne and educated at Melbourne High School. In 1950 he began a commerce course at the University of Melbourne, where he was the first person to do double honours in economics and accounting. After completing his honours year, Allan tutored at Melbourne before going to Cambridge, where he completed a PhD under the supervision of Professor Sir Austin Robinson. Allan acquired the Cambridge view of economics and accounting, always seeing accounting as an economic measuring system, and his bent towards Keynesian thought on the roles of government. In 1959 he returned from Cambridge to teach economics at Adelaide and was asked to design and deliver one of the first MBA programs in Australia. In 1967 he was invited to be the Foundation Professor of Accounting at Macquarie University, a position he held until moving to ANU as Professor of Accounting and Public Finance in 1975.

Allan held a number of University administrative roles as Head of the Department of Accounting and Public Finance (1975–80), the Dean of the Faculty of Economics (1979–83), a member of the University Council (1983–86), ANU University Treasurer (1984–94) and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Finance and Development) (1992–96). He served the University and the wider community on many advisory committees and boards and was formative in the establishment and operation of the Cambridge Australia Trust. Though he formally retired in 1998, he continued to contribute as an Emeritus Professor and as an active member of the School of Accounting and Business Information Systems.

Allan was strongly interested in and directly engaged with the policy debates on issues such as accrual accounting and the relationship between accounting reports and government financial statistics, regularly advising governments on these matters. Allan was always quick to draw on this background in both accounting and economics to argue that accounting practices should serve the public interest and the needs of macro-economic management. While Allan’s academic output was prolific and maintained throughout a challenging and diverse career, he is best known for his book The Anatomy of Accounting, which was first published in 1974. It was one of the most popular and widely used accounting textbooks in Australia, New Zealand and Britain. His influence on the thinking of successive generations of public administrators, policymakers, academics and accountants has been substantial.

Allan was a long-term member and treasurer of St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Forrest, and is survived by his much-loved daughters, Belinda and Kim, and grandchildren, Abby, Ryan, Lara and Haley. He will be missed by his many friends and family. Allan was a man and colleague with great gifts of warmth, generosity, loyalty and companionship, all of which he shared with his family and friends.

Citation details

Kerry Jacobs, 'Barton, Allan Douglas (1933–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/barton-allan-douglas-32484/text40305, accessed 5 July 2022.

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