Democratic representation and the property franchise in Australian local government

Yee-Fui Ng, Ken Coghill, Paul Thornton-Smith, Marta Poblet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Australia remains one of the last liberal democracies to retain a property franchise at the local government level. This particular feature is both the result of historical particularities and contemporary political arrangements. This article analyses the property franchise in the City of Melbourne, the capital of the Australian State of Victoria, based on democratic theory and an empirical study. It illustrates the tensions between the democratic principles of representation and political equality in defining structures for representation at the local government level. The authors suggest that a more nuanced interpretation of representation can be adopted at a local level based on territorial residency rather than legal citizenship. Despite this, based on analysis of both electoral and non-electoral mechanisms, the property franchises are found to be anachronistic and indefensible from a democratic perspective and unrelated to the status of capital city. The article concludes that, at a local level, deliberative democracy holds the promise to better represent various interests, including property interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-236
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Capital city
  • Democracy
  • Democratic representation
  • Local government
  • Property franchise
  • Voting

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