Mr McKinnon was a Member of Parliament from 1978 to 2000.
In the course of his long parliamentary career, he was the longest serving Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1990 to 1999 and held the portfolios of Disarmament and Arms Control, Veteran’s Affairs, War Pensions, and Pacific Island Affairs.
He also served as Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House. He was appointed a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council in 1992.
As Foreign Minister, Mr McKinnon developed close Commonwealth links, served as the Deputy Chairperson of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration and Chaired the Small States Meeting at the Auckland Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1995 and was appointed to the five-member Commonwealth Ministerial Mission on Small States in 1998.
He initiated a number of actions as Foreign Minister, including the campaign for a seat on the Security Council, the deployment of New Zealand peacekeepers in a number of countries and development of the Asia 2000 programme. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in initiating and overseeing the ceasefire between Bougainvilleans and the Papua New Guinea Government in 1997.
He was Commonwealth Secretary-General from 2000 to 2007 and served two terms.
Mr McKinnon’s achievements as Secretary-General include modernising the organisational structure of the Secretariat, building strategic partners with other international organisations, promoting youth programmes, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS, defending the rights of small states and promoting the establishment of a fair, rules-based multilateral trading system, ensuring that the interests of developing countries are reflected in international trade talks.