The Foreign Affairs troubleshooter Nick Warner was feted yesterday on his return from Iraq by a Parliament House picture opportunity with Alexander Downer. It was hardly a personal triumph for Warner, with reports of a botched attempt to rescue Wood splashed all over Saturday’s Herald.

But Warner gets some of the afterglow for the retrieval of the hostage by Iraqi troops, and some in Parliament are asking whether he’s headed for greater things. There has even been speculation in the corridors he could be a late-breaking candidate to replace Dennis Richardson as head of ASIO.

Richardson is off to Washington as ambassador, and the government is still mulling over a replacement for a job that has taken new significance in the war on terror.

While he is highly regarded in government, friends say Warner has his eyes on an equally challenging gig: Australia’s ambassador to Jakarta. Ric Smith held the Indonesia posting at the time of the Bali bombing, and his handling of that crisis earned him a promotion to the post of Defence Secretary.