He was an industrial officer and union secretary before entering politics. Bishop has been Shadow Minister for Veterans" Affairs 2001-2004, Shadow Minister for Customs 2003-2004 and Shadow Minister for Defence Industry, Procurement and Personnel 2005–2006. In December 2006, Bishop announced that he would not recontest his Senate seat, due to expire on 30 June 2008.
However, before the 2007 he decided to recontest and was re-elected for a further six-year term.
He did not seek pre-selection for another term in the Senate.
In the Rudd Labor Government, Senator Bishop was Chair of the Senate Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, as well as being a member of a number of other Joint House and Senate committees.