An Australian government minister has quit the cabinet because his mother told him he might be Italian - and therefore ineligible to be an MP.

Resources minister Matt Canavan's shock announcement followed the recent resignations of two senators who discovered days apart that they had technically never been elected because they are dual citizens.

Australia's constitution states that a "citizen of a foreign power" is not eligible to be elected to parliament.

Mr Canavan said his mother contacted him last week with news that he might be Italian after publicity surrounding the resignations of the minor Greens party's co-deputy leaders Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.

Mr Canavan's predicament is embarrassing for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had ridiculed the Greens over their bungled screening of ineligible candidates, and could force a cabinet reshuffle.

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