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Law of Democracy (LAWS70367)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70367
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject studies the central mechanism for democratic accountability – elections. It adopts an interdisciplinary approach to underscore how this area of law is shaped by normative principles, the political process and practical considerations. The subject will be situated in the context where the dynamic interaction of diverse and powerful actors shapes the design and practice of such law.

The subject also aims to develop amongst students the critical ability to assess the strengths and limitations of the Australian version of electoral democracy. Integral to its aim is the comparative perspective of the subject where the examination of key questions will be informed by international standards and relevant examples from other countries, which may include Canada, India, Indonesia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Principal topics include:

  • Why do elections matter? Democratic theories of elections and their critiques
  • Which public officials should be elected? The case of judges
  • Constitutions, elections and democracy
  • What happens during elections? The election campaign, the institutional actors (political parties, third party campaigners, the media, electoral commissions and the courts)
  • The voting process (compulsory voting, preferential voting, proportional voting)
  • Electoral rights (right to vote, freedom of political association, freedom of political expression)
  • The drawing of electoral boundaries
  • Regulation of political parties
  • Money in electoral politics
  • Electoral law-making: the challenge of making democratic electoral laws in a party system
  • The role of courts and electoral commissions in electoral law
  • International standards in elections: is there a ‘best practice’?
  • A case study in the limits of election law: lobbying and its regulation.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will have developed and demonstrated:

  • A sophisticated understanding of the law of democracy in Australia including key questions of institutional design, principle and practice
  • The ability to discern the strengths and limitations of such law from the perspective of democratic theories and principles
  • A comprehensive knowledge of comparative examples relevant to appreciating the contemporary challenges facing electoral democracies
  • A knowledge of international standards relevant to understanding these challenges.

Eligibility and requirements


Melbourne Law Masters Students: None

JD Students: Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law
Semester 1
LAWS50028 Constitutional Law
Semester 2



Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • Take-home examination (5,000 - 6,000 words) (100%) (7 - 10 December)
  • Research paper (8,000 - 10,000 words) (100%) (21 January 2019) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

  • October
    Principal coordinatorJoo-Cheong Tham
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours24-34 hours
    Total time commitment150 hours
    Pre teaching start date19 September 2018
    Pre teaching requirementsThe pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.
    Teaching period17 October 2018 to 23 October 2018
    Last self-enrol date 7 September 2018
    Census date17 October 2018
    Last date to withdraw without fail 7 December 2018
    Assessment period ends21 January 2019

    October contact information

Additional delivery details

This subject has a quota of 30 students.

Enrolment is on a first come, first served basis. Waitlists are maintained for subjects that are fully subscribed.

Students should note priority of places in subjects will be given as follows:

  • To currently enrolled Graduate Diploma and Masters students with a satisfactory record in their degree
  • To other students enrolling on a single subject basis, eg Community Access Program (CAP) students, cross-institutional study and cross-faculty study.

Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Further information

Last updated: 29 March 2019