Key Points:

United Future leader Peter Dunne would be the prime contender for Speaker if National formed the Government after Saturday's election, the Herald understands.

Act leader Rodney Hide could be put in charge of prisons - as well as Inland Revenue.

And new National MPs Steven Joyce and Hekia Parata could leap-frog incumbent members straight into the Cabinet.

Mr Joyce would be the prime contender for the new infrastructure portfolio promised by National leader John Key. And Ms Parata, a former high-ranking public servant, could become Maori Affairs Minister.

If, however, National or Labour needed a support agreement with the Maori Party, co-leader Pita Sharples would be likely to get Maori Affairs and Associate Education.

The Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia, would be likely to get a portfolio within the Ministry of Social Development, and Associate Health.

She and Dr Sharples could also have portfolio responsibilities in education and health, a step towards better identifying and "unbundling" spending on Maori in those areas.

Mr Key has already said he would like the tourism portfolio.

If Labour is returned for a fourth term, Annette King looks the most likely candidate to become Speaker.

While Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen has previously wanted it, he would be expected to stay at the finance tiller in such uncertain economic times.

Darren Hughes could expect a big promotion, and Trevor Mallard could be forgiven his trespasses against civilised behaviour in the parliamentary lobbies and regain sport.

The Greens would be expected to gain portfolios associated with climate change, energy and transport and perhaps promote more open government by negotiating a new responsibility.

If New Zealand First made it back to Parliament and was needed to form a Labour-led Government, it is almost certain that Winston Peters would again negotiate for the foreign affairs portfolio, possibly with a posting overseas thrown in towards the end of the term.

And Mr Peters' heir apparent, Ron Mark, could stamp his party's mark on law and order by taking charge of prisons.