The New South Wales state election is just around the corner and the major parties are putting forward their final pitches to the voters.

Last weekend the Liberal party, currently in government and led by Premier Dominic Perrottet, launched its big family-friendly policy, the New South Wales Kids Future Fund. The policy is based on a similar Canadian initiative.

It was a notable announcement — the first policy of its kind in Australia. The ABC explained the policy this way:

If re-elected on March 25, the Coalition has promised to create savings funds for every child and kick in the first A$400.

Every year the child’s family puts another $400 in, the government will match it.

The earnings are not taxed and once the child turns 18, they can withdraw the money but they must use it on education or housing.

Perrottet touts the long-term thinking behind the policy, saying it will help a new generation “build the foundations of financial security so they are ready for success in the NSW of tomorrow”.

The Labor opposition says the policy will only help wealthy families and will do nothing to help the cost of living crisis hitting families right now.

Indeed, much of the criticism the policy has attracted is focused on the same concern – that poorer families don’t have the spare cash to put into an account for the future and wealthy families too, leaving the poorer kids even further behind when they turn 18 compared to their more affluent counterparts.

While the NSW government has proposed a mechanism for less well-off families to still get $200 each year into their child’s account based on their eligibility for certain government support, the criticism of the policy is not unreasonable.

After all, few policies that involve direct payments to families won’t benefit some families over others. And more money that goes directly to the kids is less money going into the pockets of education bureaucrats and social service NGOs.

Further, policy that incentivises parents to find a way to think less short-term and invest in their kid’s long-term future should be encouraged. One of the great underreported social and economic causes of inequality is family breakdown. It dilutes wealth, creates more demand for housing, destabilises the day to day life of the kids affected and can often be a symptom of adults putting their needs before their kids.

Not that the Perrottet proposal is about family breakdown, but a bit of a nudge towards putting kids first over the long term is not a bad thing. And if, as a result, it makes parents think a bit more carefully about how they invest in their kids’ futures, that’s even better.

Samuel John is a Sydney-based writer and commentator. He has previously worked as a political staffer, ministerial adviser, and in government relations.