Don McKinnon

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Sir Don McKinnon

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 bySeat established
Succeeded by Murray McCully
Personal details
Donald Charles McKinnon

(1939-02-27) 27 February 1939 (age 80)
London, United Kingdom
NationalityNew Zealand
Political party National
Spouse(s)Clare de Lore

Sir Donald Charles 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.

Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand is the second-most senior minister in the Government of New Zealand, although this seniority does not necessarily translate into power. The office was created as a ministerial portfolio in 1954. The officeholder usually deputises for the prime minister at official functions. The current Deputy Prime Minister is Winston Peters, the Leader of New Zealand First.

Minister of Foreign Affairs (New Zealand) Minister of Foreign Affairs for New Zealand

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is a senior member of the Government of New Zealand heading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and responsible for relations with foreign countries.

Commonwealth Secretary-General head of the Commonwealth Secretariat

The Commonwealth Secretary-General is the head of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the central body which has served the Commonwealth of Nations since its establishment in 1965, and responsible for representing the Commonwealth publicly. The Commonwealth Secretary-General should not be confused with the Head of the Commonwealth, who is currently Elizabeth II.


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]

Blackheath, London inner suburban area of South East London, England

Blackheath is a district of south east London, England, within the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the London Borough of Lewisham. It is located east of Lewisham, and south of Greenwich. Blackheath is within the historic boundaries of Kent.

Major General Walter Sneddon McKinnon, was an officer in the New Zealand Army. He joined the military in 1935 and served in the Second World War with various artillery units of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. After the war he held a series of senior positions in the army, culminating with a term as Chief of the General Staff from 1965 to 1967. In his retirement, he was Chairman of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation.

The New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation was established by the New Zealand government in 1962. It was dissolved on 1 April 1975, and replaced by three separate organisations: Radio New Zealand, Television One, and Television Two, later known as South Pacific Television. The television channels would merge again in 1980 to become Television New Zealand, while Radio New Zealand remained unchanged.

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 ]

Nelson College is the oldest state secondary school in New Zealand. It is a boys-only school in the City of Nelson that teaches from years 9 to 13. In addition, it runs a private Preparatory School for year 7 and 8 boys. The school also has places for boarders, who live in three boarding houses adjacent to the main school buildings on the same campus. These boarding houses are called Rutherford, Barnicoat and Fell. In 2017 and 2018 Rutherford received a complete interior overhaul and reopened in late 2018. Fell house will be receiving the same treatment during 2019 and 2020 and is currently closed to boarders.

Woodrow Wilson High School (Washington, D.C.) high school in Washington, D.C.

Woodrow Wilson High School is a secondary school in Washington, D.C. It serves grades 9 through 12, as part of the District of Columbia Public Schools. The school is located in the Tenleytown neighborhood, at the intersection of Chesapeake Street and Nebraska Avenue NW. It primarily serves students in Washington's Ward 3, although nearly 30% of the student body live outside the school’s boundaries.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
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 List2 National
1999 2000 46th List3 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.

1969 New Zealand general election

The 1969 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of Parliament's 36th term. It saw the Second National Government headed by Prime Minister Keith Holyoake of the National Party win a fourth consecutive term.

1972 New Zealand general election

The New Zealand general election of 1972 was held on 25 November to elect MPs to the 37th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Labour Party, led by Norman Kirk, defeated the governing National Party.

New Zealand National Party Major New Zealand political party

The New Zealand National Party, shortened to National or the Nats, is a centre-right political party in New Zealand. It is one of two major parties that dominate contemporary New Zealand politics, alongside its traditional rival, the New Zealand Labour Party.

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.

A whip is an official of a political party whose task is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. This usually means ensuring that members of the party vote according to the party platform, rather than according to their own individual ideology or the will of their constituents. Whips are the party's "enforcers". They ensure their fellow legislators attend voting sessions and vote according to official party policy.

Robert Muldoon 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Robert David Muldoon, also known as Rob Muldoon, was a New Zealand politician who served as the 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand, from 1975 to 1984, while Leader of the National Party.

A snap election is an election called earlier than expected.

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.

Jim Bolger Prime Minister of New Zealand, politician

James Brendan Bolger is a New Zealand politician of the National Party who was the 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving from 1990 to 1997.

1990 New Zealand general election

The 1990 New Zealand general election was held on 27 October to determine the composition of the 43rd New Zealand parliament. The governing Labour Party was defeated, ending its controversial two terms in office. The National Party, led by Jim Bolger, won a landslide victory and formed the new government.

Bougainville Island main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea

Bougainville Island is the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea. This region is also known as Bougainville Province or the North Solomons. Its land area is 9,300 km2. The population of the province is 234,280, which includes the adjacent island of Buka and assorted outlying islands including the Carterets. Mount Balbi at 2,700 m is the highest point.

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 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 [4]

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. [5]

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". [6]

In the 2008 New Year Honours, McKinnon was appointed as a Member of the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand's highest civilian honour. [7]

In 2009, McKinnon was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order for services to the Commonwealth. [8] [9] 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. [10] [11]

McKinnon is chairman of the Global Panel Foundation Australasia, a non-governmental organization that works in crisis areas around the world. [12]

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. [13]

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  1. Dominion Post 18 June 2009 page C2
  2. Nelson College Old Boys' Register, 1856–2006, 6th edition
  3. 1 2 McKinnon, Don (25 May 2006), Building Sustainable Democracies – the Commonwealth way (PDF), Center for Strategic and International Studies
  4. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh & Scottish Borders: Annual Review 2004". Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  5. Manning, Selwyn. "McKinnon moves to resolve Clark Bainimarama scrap". Scoop. 15 October 2007.
  6. Ralston, Bill (14–20 April 2007). "The seven-year itch". New Zealand Listener . 208 (3492).
  7. "New Year honours list 2008". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  8. "No. 59001". The London Gazette . 9 March 2009. p. 4181.
  9. "The Queen appoints former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, as GCVO". Buckingham Palace. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 11 March 2009.
  10. "In the Ring: A Commonwealth Memoir". Amazon. 17 March 2013.
  11. "McKinnon details Zimbabwe, Fiji in memoirs". 3 News NZ. 18 March 2013.
  12. "Board of directors". Global Panel. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  13. 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
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