The five men, who were variously victims of torture, assault, death threats and theft before the LNP government’s campaign against motorcycle gangs, were divided in their concerns about its impact on civil liberties.
But the men – three of whom found police unwilling to pursue their complaints at the time – were unanimous in telling Guardian Australia they believed police had the power to tackle bikie crimes before the advent of the draconian and far-reaching laws.
Newman, speaking on Tuesday on the Gold Coast street, said his mission if re-elected was “to continue the fight to throw [bikies] out of this state”.
The Labor opposition leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who last year vowed to scrap the LNP laws but is wary of being painted as soft on bikie gangs, stressed her party’s “zero tolerance” and willingness to give police resources to fight organised crime.
A former soldier, who was warned by Gold Coast police against pressing charges over a serious assault in 2012 because his assailant was a gang associate, said the crackdown was “both good and bad”.
“I’m sure the police had the powers all along to enforce the law,” he said. The man, who did not wish to be named, said he was concerned the bikie laws were “a Trojan horse to restrict liberties”.
“It seems like we’re giving up so much of our individual freedoms and rights … and the way they get through these laws is a crackdown on terror – or a crackdown on the bikies – and that’s how they get around it,” he said.
“From my point of view, there might be bigger crimes being committed by corporations or by governments – compare them to what some of the bikies are doing, there’s not really a comparison.”
Gold Coast man David Holmes, who had his ears severed by a Lone Wolf bikie over a soured drug deal in 2007, said blanket measures forcing bikies into isolation in jails and out of jobs from construction to tattoo parlours breached human rights.
“The humanity side of it, that’s what [Newman’s] not seeing,” he said. “Guys who have committed crimes five years ago have been affected by it, who have turned their lives around, [one] who’s even tried to commit suicide.
“I still counsel blokes who come out of jail now and they’re having a go and they’re still getting harassed.
“Yes, there are ratbags in the bike clubs but we’ve got laws in place – and task forces – to catch that. Every case in the justice system has to be treated as unique. If we don’t get back to that, if you just have this blanket thing, we’ve really lost this bit of Australia, a few rights there.”
The speed cook turned drug counsellor said the drug trade was still roaring on the Gold Coast, with the price of ice dropping from $600 to $400 a gram and new players “a lot uglier than the bikers” moving in.
“Sure it’s knocked out the clubs but it hasn’t knocked out the drugs or the violence,” he said.
A Brisbane locksmith, who was told by police to “find a new job” after complaining in 2012 that competitors who were bikies had threatened to “slit his throat”, applauded laws that made the everyday lives of gang members difficult.
“Well, they’re criminals aren’t they? They should be very hard on them,” he said.
However he said it was “the lack of will on the police side” rather than the need for new laws that had let the bikies operate with apparent impunity.
“They were just blatant criminals and they let them run for like 10 years,” he said. “They didn’t need any bikie laws, that was just criminal activity full stop.”
A tattoo parlour owner who had a gang leader with drug and weapon convictions try to extort and threaten him in 2012, said laws banning bikies from the industry had mixed results.
“On the one hand, we can come to work and be relaxed that the sound of a motorcycle pulling up outside is a customer and not a bikie about to throw a brick through our window,” he said. “However, because there was no consultation with the industry about the laws, my bottom line has been badly affected in the last six months.”
The parlour owner said his weekly custom was down 20% to 30% since he was prohibited from bringing in interstate guest tattooists, while insurers had raised his premiums from $3000 to $15,000 a year.
Tony Davis had a $4000 boat motor stolen from his Gold Coast home in 2012 but was told by police to “forget it” because the thief was a violent bikie.
“It’s just ironic that happened before the crackdown – it was, ‘he’s a violent character, he belongs to an outlaw motorcycle club, forget it, go buy another one’,” he said.
Davis welcomed the tough laws and the renewed police urgency in prosecuting bikie crimes. “I certainly won’t be voting Labor because Ms Palaszczuk just wants to water it down.”
However, Davis was concerned police had been diverted from other crimes. “They should take every report of whatever criminal offence seriously,” he said.