Police Minister Paul Papalia has dodged questions on whether a union call to make first responders exempt from the State public sector wages policy is feasible, saying he is focused on improving officer safety by overhauling gun laws. The motion is among dozens being debated at the WA Police Union annual conference on Monday, with president Paul Gale outlining in his opening address how the force was different to other public sector workers, facing the prospect of injury and even death. Shift rotations led to potential health issues such as sleep disorders and fatigue, while the emotional and mental toll gave some workers PTSD, with many quitting for a less taxing job in the private sector, Mr Gale said. In 2022-23, WA Police suffered its worst attrition rate since 1969-70, while the ratio of sworn officer to population was at its lowest level in a decade, he said, asking why this was not sounding alarm bells in the State Government. “We are regularly portrayed as just regular public sector workers but we’re not,” Mr Gale told reporters. Mr Papalia wouldn’t be drawn on the possibility of frontline police being elevated to a higher category, saying: “I don’t know”. “What you’ve got to remember is everyone including police officers benefit from good financial management,” Mr Papalia went on to say. “It wasn’t that long ago that the State’s finances were a basket case. “We have now got a situation where we’re not spending more than revenue coming in the door and everyone who controls their own budget at home knows that’s really important. “It means we keep the State-driven cost of living down.” Asked if he supported another motion calling for a high-risk occupation allowance of 2 per cent, Mr Papalia replied: “What I would back is making it safer for police officers”. “We’re rewriting the Firearms Act. We’re putting public safety and police safety as the number one priority,” he added. Mr Papalia had earlier told the conference that of 483 callouts involving firearms in WA over the past 12 months, 50 involved officers having guns “potentially pointed at them or in a threatening environment”. The Public Sector Union Alliance agreed in August to campaign for a pay claim of 7 per cent and 5 per cent in fiscal 2024 and 2025, respectively, and Mr Gale said police “should be starting there as a minimum”. He did not agree with the suggestion WAPU could have held out for a better deal for 2023 after begrudgingly accepting the State’s blanket public sector wages policy of 3 per cent per annum or $60 per week, whichever results in a “higher outcome” on top of a $3000 cost of living payment. The union had been campaigning for a 5 per cent increase, which the Australian Nursing Federation WA is still pushing for. Mr Gale said the offer was backed due to the addition of “great” conditions including a career break of up to 12 months off to “decide whether the grass is greener” elsewhere. “We had been going at that for over 12 months, 15 months and for every day that we’re going at it, our members are missing out,” he said. “But it still doesn’t reach the numbers that we’re looking for.” Mr Papalia joked that the rest of the Cook Government probably wouldn’t trust him with controlling officers’ wages as he’d “give them anything they want, which is not the best approach”. The results of voting on the motions are expected to be publicly released on Wednesday.