There will be a Cabinet reshuffle early next year.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully yesterday announced that the current Charge d’Affaires in Washington, Carl Worker is to be appointed the Ambassador for Counter Terrorism early next year.

Mr Worker is currently the acting head of New Zealand’s mission to Washington.

The Ambassador, former Labour leader, Mike Moore, is incapacitated following a stroke.

He is not expected to return to his post.

Mr Worker has effectively been filling in for him.

The Trade Minister Tim Groser, who is anxious to depart politics, has long been tipped to be the next New Zealand Ambassador to Washington.

He would bring his long experience as a diplomat and trade negotiator to Washington at a time when it might be grappling with passing the TPP.

That will clearly leave a gap within the Cabinet but it is sure to provoke a wider reshuffle.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the decision to appoint an Ambassador for Counter Terrorism was announced by the Prime Minister late last year, and reflected  the importance “we attach to countering the evolving international threat presented ISIL and other terrorist groups.”

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“Appointing a specialist Ambassador will enable New Zealand to contribute further to international and regional efforts to counter terrorism and allow us to expand our diplomatic engagement with important international counter terrorism forums, including the Anti-ISIL Coalition, the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, and the United Nations.

“The role will also be charged with strengthening our engagement with key partners in the Asia-Pacific, with a view to increasing New Zealand’s counter terrorism policy cooperation and capacity building in the region,” said Mr McCully.

The departure of Mr Groser to Washington would by itself provoke a Cabinet reshuffle — however it is not Prime Minister John Key’s approach to do these things by halves.

His immediate replacement is obviously Todd McClay who has already been leading negotiations on the next big trade agreement with the European Union.

Longer term there are some National party sources who believe that Hekia Parata will replace Murray McCully as foreign minister after he retires at the next election – as is widely expected within the Beehive.

But if the question is early next year then the candidates for promotion to Cabinet are limited.

Of the Ministers outside Cabinet – Joe Goodhew, Louise Upston, Nicky Wagener and Paul Goldsmith, are all potential Cabinet Ministers.

One other, Craig Foss is probably not.

The next question relates to the Speaker David Carter.

His predecessor, Sir Lockwood Smith, will have completed three years as High Commissioner to London early next year — that may leave the London post open for Mr Carter.

If that was the case, then Mr Key could appoint Mr Carter to London and move Anne Tolley to Speaker thus opening up two vacancies in the Cabinet.

Again you would expect Joe Goodhew, Louise Upston, Nicky Wagener and Paul Goldsmith to be the candidates.

But what might be more interesting is who might move into the two positions vacated by whoever gets move into Cabinet.

The most likely candidates would be backbenchers like Mark Mitchell, Scott Simpson, Jian Yang or Jonathan Young.

What yesterday’s announcement clearly indicates that the long expected vacancy in Washington is now ready to be filled with a long term appointment and that appointment is expected to  be Tim Groser.

That is the crack in the door that will open up an entire Cabinet reshuffle.