Retiring Clerk of the House of Representatives Bernard Wright receives a standing ovation at Parliament House.

Retiring Clerk of the House of Representatives Bernard Wright receives a standing ovation at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

For a spell, just before the House rose for the summer holidays on Thursday, it genuinely managed to rise above politics.

After a year that has seen three prime ministers, 4½ Labor leaders (counting Bowen and Albo) and more facepalming heartache than you can poke a mace at, the House paused to acknowledge Bernard Wright.

Those outside Parliament House may not be familiar with the name Bernard Wright, but if they have watched proceedings, they will know him as the gown-wearing, silver-haired gentleman on the right of the Speaker who introduces business items in that low and steady voice.

As the person who records the decisions, operates the bells and counts the votes, Wright is the one who truly knows how the place works. But after 41 years at Parliament House and four as Clerk, he is retiring.

Wright commands so much respect across both sides of politics, that during speeches to honour him on Thursday, the entire House stood in a spontaneous standing ovation.

At this, Bronwyn Bishop also stood, bowing slightly and outstretching her arms as if to conduct the chamber in its praise.

It was such a graceful and gracious gesture. And one so much in keeping with what one might have anticipated of Bishop when she was first talked of as the Speaker in the 44th Parliament.

''I want to bring some dignity back to the Parliament,'' Tony Abbott said of his pick in September, adding that he wanted a Speaker who put equal pressure on both the government and the opposition.

Indeed, the day Bishop was dragged to the Speaker's chair, she spoke of her passions for the Parliament's ''traditions'' and bringing back ''niceties'' - as well as allowing for robust debate.

Expectations were also high because Bishop had been such an active point of order maker in the previous Parliament and was such an established character.

What withering glares! What poetic phrasery!

And yet when she stood conducting that beautiful moment on Thursday, it stood in contrast to much of her newborn speakership.

For one thing, Bishop has decided to attend Coalition party room meetings (when convention has it the Speaker stays away) and to contribute to discussion (she piped up on criticisms of the ABC last week).

For another, her early track record in the House includes some clangers.

Labor has moved to dissent from Bishop's rulings three times in four weeks.

While these have not been successful (and cannot be viewed as apolitical acts), it is significant that she has given Labor the ammunition to do so.

On her first proper day of the job, Madam Speaker allowed Christopher Pyne to use the term ''Electricity Bill'' (in reference to Shorten). Bishop ruled that Pyne ''was merely using a description and I do not find the term unparliamentary'', even though the standing orders are Swarovski clear that MPs must be addressed by their titles.

Labor was provoked to dissent again when Bishop refused to allow it to submit amendments to the carbon tax repeal legislation. In a ruling that was seen as just a bit too tricky, she decided it was a ''supply'' (money) bill and therefore could not be introduced by the opposition.

The third occasion came on Tuesday evening, in the middle of a Labor move to suspend standing orders. Here, Bishop responded to an Albo point of order in a manner that was curiously similar to recent Coalition taunts.

''The former Leader of the House, who is now apparently the Acting Manager of Opposition Business, has given the chair advice,'' she said.

When Labor protested, Bishop continued, saying to Tony Burke: ''If the Manager of Opposition Business is raising a point of order to resume his status, then it is acknowledged.''

Burke then moved to dissent, arguing the chair was getting involved in the debate.

''You need to recognise, Madam Speaker, that you are meant to be impartial.''

The next morning, he held a doorstop along similar lines. ''I don't think it's too much to say that you shouldn't have a situation where an umpire is sledging the players,'' Burke said, sparks of froutrage (frustrated outrage) flying.

Now, I'd not argue for a minute that Labor have nothing to gain from waving their arms about, shouting ''not fair''. And they don't have such an angelic recent history themselves (i.e. Burke has described Bishop as the despotic Harry Potter character, ''Dolores Umbridge''.)

But it is an eyebrow-raising trend so early in a new Parliament - where the government holds a more than comfy majority - that the Speaker is so easily associated with the government.

From the woman who was once touted as a future PM, we expected more slap down and less slap dash.

Judith Ireland is a Fairfax Media journalist