Japanese Twitter users were howling in derision Wednesday after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used paper models and cut-out firefighters on television, in his latest attempt to explain controversial security legislation.

Apparently concerned about declining public support and suspicion of bills that will allow so-called ‘collective defence’, Abe used props on two different programmes to try to persuade the public of his case. Under current laws ‘Japan cannot help the United States extinguish a fire’ in an American home, he told viewers of Fuji TV on Monday, gesturing to a large paper house with a US flag.

Hanging over the paper house was something supposed to resemble fire - viewers said it looked more like raw meat. Abe then placed an American fire truck in front of the house, along with the small cardboard figure of a firefighter. At a more modest house nearby, decorated with a Japanese flag, Japanese firefighters stood by and watched the conflagration, powerless to act, the premier said.

Under bills that passed through the lower house of parliament last week, which allow Japanese troops to fight alongside allies when under attack, these ‘firefighters’ would no longer be impotent, Abe told viewers.