Last week the nation supposedly had a discussion about super - except we didn't. What could have been a broader opportunity to explore the principles of wealth creation and distribution in Australia was, instead, allowed to degenerate into a petty dispute about how many million dollars are required to guarantee a comfortable retirement. Anthony Albanese's managed to win this argument. The PM easily outmanoeuvred Peter Dutton (degree of difficulty, zero) and has led the Opposition Leader into another a dead-end (positioning him as the defender of super-millionaires who sit puffing cigars on boats in Sydney harbour). It can be marked down as a comfortable tactical victory and a political win. It could have been so much more but, in abandoning the big debate to secure his victory, Albanese has squandered something far more vital. This was an opportunity for a big debate about wealth and the way money is allowed to flow or is, rather, allowed to stick in the hands of the plutocrats. Unfortunately what started as an opportunity to really shift the needles and address the fundamental underlying issues has been abandoned. In doing so it's displayed a typical element of Albanese's political style. Just think back to the way the debate played out. It all began when Treasurer Jim Chalmers was invited to play the good old simplistic rule-in-rule-out game on breakfast TV. This forces players to divide the entire world into either black or white and was, if I remember correctly, a big hit in primary school. That's because it's designed as a trap. When everything is reduced to the binary of "yes" or "no" the only way to win is not to play. This requires pointing out that not everything is black or white and that it doesn't take much effort to see colour. Doing this isn't difficult and most of us learn how to do it by the time we move into secondary school. All it requires is a bit of mental dexterity and practice at reframing the discussion. Chalmers is a good politician with a big future but (as his competitors for future leadership of the party will happily point out) he isn't there yet. Sunrise host David Koch was pretending he was a fast bowler, sending ball after ball hurtling towards an imaginary wicket that Chalmers was left attempting to defend. What he desperately needed to do was to bog down Koch's relentless assault (by talking detail), create a distraction (creating ridiculous alternatives), and return to playing the main game (slowly drawing the conversation to generalities). If Chalmers wants to keep his star shining he needs to spend time practising these skills. They're not simply acquired as you go along, they need to be learned. As he was watching the disastrous interview go to air Albanese decided he had to act immediately to quash any speculation that he was actually considering any deeper and real economic reform. He stamped onto the field and used morning radio like the professional he is. He picked up the stumps that Chalmers had left lying on the pitch, insisted that the real game is rugby, and kicked the ball towards the posts. In doing so he displayed both the reason why he's Prime Minister and his limitations. He quashed the sparks to prevent it turning into a wildfire but showed a strange reluctance to address the really big issues. Are these just temporarily postponed and, if so, why? If the PM isn't prepared to address the big questions about the future and encourage a real debate about the way superannuation is working today, when will his moment ever come? Albanese's youth was defined by sharp distinctions. He was a fiercely proud member of Labor's NSW Left at a time when the faction's biggest enemy seemed to be the Right, rather than the Liberal Party. He's extremely adept at playing, and beating, the other team. His problem is that politics has evolved and simply defeating the opposition isn't enough. What's needed it the ability to craft a new way forward. The move that really transformed the superannuation debate last week was the intervention of senator David Pocock. To continue the sporting analogy, it was his seizing the ball and suddenly darting out of the pack that gave some real direction to a play that had, until then, been left dribbling around without direction. By talking about some basic principles, like fairness and equity, his intervention converted a narrow political game into a vision of how the country can be better in the future. This is what politics should really be about. READ MORE: Some tax exemptions, such as reforming capital gains tax (let alone death duties) remain too controversial to even be considered. Yet why is it really so hard to think more tax should be levied on unearned wealth? Where are the big debates that should be taking place on these ideas? And how about other inefficiencies? Many tax exemptions are, today, bizarre legacies left over from the sort of political compromises made to originally introduce them. Take one of my favourite tipples. The government is voluntarily forgoes $7 million a year by taxing brandy at a lower rate of excise than (my wife) Cath's favourite spirit, gin. In what particular world does this make sense? Why are my drinking habits being supported by the taxpayer? Continuing to envisage our politics as a contest between two sides reduces it to a game. Albanese may be able to continue winning this game but it isn't getting us anywhere closer to nirvana. Fast trains are a classic example of this. The PM's a former infrastructure and transport minister, claims this is his passion, yet isn't interested in discussing this vital issue until the NSW state election's out of the way. The necessity not to give Dominic Perrottet a boost is allowed to take priority over the far more important environmental and communications problems that face the country. Concentrating on the message and winning the play is all very well, but we'll need to find better ways of guaranteeing our retirement.