Police intelligence is being kept on so-called issue-motivated groups, including union officials and environmental activists, obtained documents show.

Protesters are more likely to embarrass Queensland Premier Campbell Newman than physically harm him, right-to-information files reveal.

The documents show the Queensland police Security Intelligence Branch keeps files on so-called “issue-motivated groups” (IMGs), including unions and environmental activists.

The branch provides threat assessments to the government before community cabinet meetings, and the documents obtained by AAP show the risks posed by IMGs to the premier’s safety are generally regarded as low and any threats are unlikely to include violence.

“It is assessed that IMGs pose the greatest risk of embarrassment to the premier and his government by their continued and varied methods of protest and often intend to embarrass the premier rather than physically harm him,” a file from September 2012 says.

In January 2013, Mr Newman changed a lunch plan after being told by police that 25 Queensland Nurses Union members wanted to confront him at a Townsville restaurant.

Nigel Powell, a former Queensland police officer whose exposes on police corruption led to the 1980s Fitzgerald inquiry, said police did not have a duty to protect politicians from embarrassment.

“As soon as you start saying, ‘You should change the venue because you might be embarrassed’ – as a police officer I shouldn’t be concerned about that,” he told AAP.

A separate entry from April 2013 names the Together public service union’s Mackay organiser Dolph Lossberg for “attempting to gather a large crowd of union members, 500-1000” to protest about job cuts.

“I’m sure there must be files with suspected terrorists as well,” Mr Lossberg told AAP.

“There are more people than union officials to investigate in Australia.”

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties executive member Andrew Sinclair said the naming of a union organiser was inappropriate, and likened the keeping of detailed police files, beyond security threat levels, to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era.

“They’re going down the same slippery slope to the Special Branch days where they become an arm of the government collecting information,” he told AAP.

The old police Special Branch was disbanded in 1989 after four decades, following the Fitzgerald inquiry into police and political corruption.

AAP obtained 140 pages of police intelligence files and many of them were blacked out.

Queensland police said its security operations unit enhanced community safety by providing accurate intelligence on politically motivated violence to protect persons “assessed to be at risk”.