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Don McKinnon

Sir Don McKinnon
McKinnon in 2012
4th Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations
In office
1 April 2000 – 31 March 2008
HeadElizabeth II
ChairThabo Mbeki (South Africa)
John Howard (Australia)
Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria)
Lawrence Gonzi (Malta)
Yoweri Museveni (Uganda)
Preceded byEmeka Anyaoku
Succeeded byKamalesh Sharma
12th Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
2 November 1990 – 16 December 1996
Prime MinisterJim Bolger
Preceded byHelen Clark
Succeeded byWinston Peters
24th Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
2 November 1990 – 5 December 1999
Prime MinisterJim Bolger
Jenny Shipley
Preceded byMike Moore
Succeeded byPhil Goff
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Albany
Rodney (1984–1987)
In office
25 November 1978 – 12 October 1996
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byMurray McCully
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for National party list
In office
12 October 1996 – 6 March 2000
Succeeded byArthur Anae[n 1]
Personal details
Donald Charles McKinnon

(1939-02-27) 27 February 1939 (age 85)
London, United Kingdom
NationalityNew Zealand
Political partyNational
(m. 1995)
RelativesWalter McKinnon (father)
Ian McKinnon (brother)
John McKinnon (brother)
Malcolm McKinnon (brother)

Sir Donald Charles McKinnon ONZ GCVO PC (born 27 February 1939) is a New Zealand politician who served as the 12th deputy prime minister of New Zealand and the minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand. He was the secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations from 2000 until 2008.

Early life

McKinnon was born in Blackheath, London. His father was Major-General Walter McKinnon, CB CBE, a New Zealand Chief of the General Staff, and once Chairman of New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation. McKinnon's brothers include the twins John McKinnon, the former New Zealand Secretary of Defence and a former Ambassador to China, and Malcolm McKinnon, an editor and academic, and Ian McKinnon, Pro-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington, School Headmaster of Scots College and former Deputy Mayor of Wellington. The McKinnon brothers are great-great-grandsons of John Plimmer, known as the "father of Wellington".[1]

McKinnon was educated at Khandallah School and then Nelson College from 1952 to 1953.[2] In 1956, he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, in Washington, D.C.[3] McKinnon later spent a "lengthy period" in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.[3] He undertook study at Lincoln Agricultural College, New Zealand. After leaving university, he became a farm manager, and later a farm management consultant. In 1974, he became a real estate agent. In his spare time, he also worked as a rehabilitation tutor in prisons.[citation needed]

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1978–1981 39th Albany National
1981–1984 40th Albany National
1984–1987 41st Rodney National
1987–1990 42nd Albany National
1990–1993 43rd Albany National
1993–1996 44th Albany National
1996–1999 45th List 2 National
1999–2000 46th List 3 National

In the elections of 1969 and 1972, McKinnon stood unsuccessfully as the National Party's candidate in the Birkenhead electorate, having previously served on two of the party's electorate committees. In the election of 1978, McKinnon won the newly established seat of Albany, which covered much of the same area.

In 1980, McKinnon was made the government's junior Whip. Two years later, he was made senior Whip. When Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called the snap election of 1984, and was defeated by David Lange's New Zealand Labour Party, McKinnon remained senior Whip for his party in Opposition. In September 1987, following National's defeat at the August election, he became deputy leader of the National Party after defeating Ruth Richardson for the position by just one vote.[4] He was also appointed Shadow Minister of Defence and Shadow Minister of Health by leader Jim Bolger.[5]

Cabinet minister

When National, then led by Jim Bolger, won the 1990 election, McKinnon became Deputy Prime Minister. He also became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister of Pacific Island Affairs. During his tenure in the former role, he oversaw New Zealand's election to the UN Security Council, increased activity in the Commonwealth of Nations, and attempts to broker a truce on the island of Bougainville. He received recognition as a result of the Bougainville negotiations.

In 1996, the National Party required the support of the New Zealand First party to form a government, and part of the coalition agreement gave the office of Deputy Prime Minister to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. McKinnon kept his role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, however, and also became Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control. When the coalition with New Zealand First collapsed, McKinnon did not resume the Deputy Prime Minister's role as he had been replaced beforehand as Deputy National Party leader by Wyatt Creech and therefore Creech became Deputy Prime Minister instead, although he did gain the minor responsibility of Minister in Charge of War Pensions. McKinnon retired from parliament shortly after the 1999 election, being replaced by Arthur Anae.

Secretary-General of the Commonwealth

During his time as New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs, McKinnon had been highly involved with the Commonwealth. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 1999 (CHOGM), in Durban, he was elected to the office of Secretary General. Since that time, he has had to deal with issues such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and George Speight's attempted nationalist coup in Fiji. McKinnon has also placed an emphasis on supporting "good governance".

In late 2003, New Zealand media reported that Zimbabwe was attempting to gather support from other Commonwealth members to remove McKinnon from the office of Secretary-General, presumably in retaliation for McKinnon's views about the issue of Zimbabwean democracy. The government of Zimbabwe denied that it was making any such efforts.

At the opening of the 2003 CHOGM, in Nigeria on 5 December, McKinnon was challenged for the position of Secretary-General by Lakshman Kadirgamar, a former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. However, McKinnon defeated Kadirgamar in a vote reported to be 40–11 in McKinnon's favour.

McKinnon received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2005[6]

In 2007 McKinnon attempted to mediate between Fiji and the Australian and New Zealand governments in their continuing dispute over the appropriate timetable and rules for the holding of Fijian election in 2008.[7]

In a 2007 interview McKinnon criticised British public support for evicted white farmers in Zimbabwe as being "a bit of a guilt thing" and argued that the evictions were justified as there was "no way you can justify a society where 15,000 white farmers control 80 per cent of the most fertile land".[8]

In the 2008 New Year Honours, McKinnon was appointed as a Member of the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand's highest civilian honour.[9]

In 2009, McKinnon was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order for services to the Commonwealth.[10][11] He is a vice-president of the Royal Commonwealth Society.


Don McKinnon Drive is named after McKinnon, in his former electorate of Albany.

In April 2013, McKinnon released his memoirs of his time as Secretary General of the Commonwealth, entitled In The Ring.[12][13]

McKinnon is chairman of the Global Panel Foundation Australasia, a non-governmental organisation that works in crisis areas around the world.[14]

Personal life

McKinnon is married to his second wife, former journalist Clare de Lore, and together they have a son. McKinnon also has four other children from a previous marriage.[15]



  1. ^ Normally, list MPs do not have individual predecessors or successors, but McKinnon resigned during a sitting parliament and therefore was succeeded by Anae.


  1. ^ Dominion Post 18 June 2009 page C2
  2. ^ Nelson College Old Boys' Register, 1856–2006, 6th edition
  3. ^ a b McKinnon, Don (25 May 2006), Building Sustainable Democracies – the Commonwealth way (PDF), Center for Strategic and International Studies[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Grafton, Tim (10 September 1987). "National Picks McKinnon - Bolger's deputy the 'safe option'". The Evening Post. p. 1.
  5. ^ "National Party's new parliamentary line-up". The New Zealand Herald. 12 February 1990. p. 5.
  6. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh & Scottish Borders: Annual Review 2004". Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  7. ^ Manning, Selwyn. "McKinnon moves to resolve Clark Bainimarama scrap". Scoop. 15 October 2007.
  8. ^ Ralston, Bill (14–20 April 2007). "The seven-year itch". New Zealand Listener. 208 (3492). Archived from the original on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
  9. ^ "New Year honours list 2008". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  10. ^ "No. 59001". The London Gazette. 9 March 2009. p. 4181.
  11. ^ "The Queen appoints former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, as GCVO". Buckingham Palace. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 11 March 2009.
  12. ^ McKinnon, Don (17 March 2013). "In the Ring: A Commonwealth Memoir". Amazon. ISBN 978-1908739261.
  13. ^ "McKinnon details Zimbabwe, Fiji in memoirs". 3 News NZ. 18 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Board of directors". Global Panel. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  15. ^ Hewitson, Michele (5 June 2010). "Michele Hewitson Interview: Don McKinnon". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 September 2010.


  • McKinnon, Don (2013). In The Ring - A Commonwealth Memoir. Elliot and Thompson. ISBN 9781908739261.
New Zealand Parliament New constituency Member of Parliament for Albany 1978–19841987–1996 VacantConstituency abolished,recreated in 1987Title next held byhimself VacantConstituency abolished in 1984Title last held byhimself Succeeded byMurray McCully VacantConstituency abolished in 1978Title last held byPeter Wilkinson Member of Parliament for Rodney 1984–1987 VacantConstituency abolished,recreated in 1996Title next held byLockwood Smith Political offices Preceded byChief Emeka Anyaoku Secretary-General for the Commonwealth 2000–2008 Succeeded byKamalesh Sharma Preceded byMike Moore Minister of Foreign Affairs 1990–1999 Succeeded byPhil Goff Preceded byHelen Clark Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand 1990–1996 Succeeded byWinston Peters
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Don McKinnon
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