Labour MP Michael Wood defends early childhood Budget announcement after intense backlash from sector

Labour MP Michael Wood is defending his party's early childhood education Budget announcement despite the sector claiming it wasn't properly consulted. 

The sector has claimed the 20 hours free early childhood education (ECE) being extended to 2-year-olds, announced in last week's Budget, actually meant fees would have to increase or centres close.  

Three-quarters of the sector has now called for an urgent meeting with ministers, saying they wanted the policy reconsidered - believing it to be unworkable. That's because the number of 2-year-olds to educators was being funded at a ratio of one teacher to 10 children - a ratio the sector has said is "unsafe". 

"They're going to need to backtrack on this and it's going to have to happen pretty soon, because you cannot let parents down," National Party Education spokesperson Erica Stanford told AM on Friday. 

When asked by AM host Ryan Bridge about the policy, senior Labour Minister Michael Wood said the announcement was "unanimously well-received by parents".

"It's going to make a huge difference in terms of saving cost and enabling more parents to have more choices by getting their 2-year-olds into ECE at a lower cost."

He said Budget policies often had to be rejigged after the fact.

"It's always the case that, after a Budget announcement, you have to sit down and you have to work out the implementation of it," Wood told Bridge. "We'll do that with the sector.

"The changes roll out from April 1… so there's some time to sit down and work that through with them but, look, there's increased funding in here for the ECE sector as well so we have taken account of that."

Wood was asked by Bridge if it would've been smarter to ask the sector before the fact so the Government wasn't "so far off the mark".

"I disagree with that," Wood said. "This is normal 'grist for the mill' when you work these things through with these sectors.

"These are often sectors who have got their own balance sheets and they've got their own interests - you sit down and you work it through."