Don McKinnon

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
The Right Honourable
Sir Donald McKinnon
File:Don McKinnon (cropped).jpg
4th Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations
In office
1 April 2000 – 1 April 2008
Head Elizabeth II
Chair Thabo Mbeki (South Africa)
John Howard (Australia)
Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria)
Lawrence Gonzi (Malta)
Yoweri Museveni (Uganda)
Preceded by Emeka Anyaoku
Succeeded by Kamalesh Sharma
12th Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
2 November 1990 – 16 December 1996
Prime Minister Jim Bolger
Preceded by Helen Clark
Succeeded by Winston Peters
24th Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
2 November 1990 – 5 December 1999
Prime Minister Jim Bolger (1990–1997)
Jenny Shipley (1997–1999)
Preceded by Mike Moore
Succeeded by Phil Goff
Member of Parliament for Albany
In office
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Murray McCully
Personal details
Born (1939-02-27) 27 February 1939 (age 79)
London, United Kingdom
Nationality New Zealand
Political party National
Spouse(s) Clare de Lore

Sir Donald Charles "Don" McKinnon ONZ GCVO (born 27 February 1939) is a former Deputy Prime Minister and 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 current 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 City. The McKinnon brothers are great-great-grandsons of John Plimmer, known as the "father of Wellington".[1]

McKinnon was educated at Nelson College from 1952 to 1953,[2] and in Washington, D.C. before eventually undertaking 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.

Member of Parliament

Parliament of New Zealand
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, he became deputy leader of the National Party.

Cabinet minister

When National, then led by Jim Bolger, won the 1990 elections, 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 for 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 elections, 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.

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 elections in 2008.[3]

In 2009, McKinnon was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of The Royal Victorian Order for services to the Commonwealth.[4][5] He is a Vice-President of the Royal Commonwealth Society.


McKinnon has often taken positions on issues that are at variance with the consensus of Commonwealth member states, not least that of the New Zealand government. In a speech to the 2005 CHOGM in Malta, McKinnon caused controversy when he appeared to say economic development and free trade are more important than democracy. In a 2007 interview he 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 percent of the most fertile land".[6]


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.[7][8]

McKinnon is Chairman of the Global Panel Foundation - Australasia - a respected NGO that works behind the scenes in crisis areas around the world. The Australasia Vice Chair is the Hon. Philip Ruddock, the former Attorney General (2003-2007) of Australia. The Global Panel Foundation has offices and satellites in Berlin, Copenhagen, New York, Prague, Sydney and Toronto.

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.[9]



  1. Dominion Post 18 June 2009 page C2
  2. Nelson College Old Boys' Register, 1856–2006, 6th edition
  3. Manning, Selwyn. "McKinnon moves to resolve Clark Bainimarama scrap". Scoop. 15 October 2007.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 59001. p. 4181. 9 March 2009.
  5. "The Queen appoints former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, as GCVO". Buckingham Palace. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ralston, Bill (14–20 April 2007). "The seven-year itch". New Zealand Listener. 208 (3492).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "In the Ring: A Commonwealth Memoir". Amazon. 17 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "McKinnon details Zimbabwe, Fiji in memoirs". 3 News NZ. 18 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hewitson, Michele (5 June 2010). "Michele Hewitson Interview: Don McKinnon". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 September 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • McKinnon, Don (2013). In The Ring - A Commonwealth Memoir. Elliot and Thompson. ISBN 9781908739261.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Albany
Constituency abolished,
recreated in 1987
Title next held by
Constituency abolished in 1984
Title last held by
Succeeded by
Murray McCully
Constituency abolished in 1978
Title last held by
Peter Wilkinson
Member of Parliament for Rodney
Constituency abolished,
recreated in 1996
Title next held by
Lockwood Smith
Political offices
Preceded by
Chief Emeka Anyaoku
Secretary-General for the Commonwealth
Succeeded by
Kamalesh Sharma
Preceded by
Mike Moore
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Phil Goff
Preceded by
Helen Clark
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Winston Peters